NANTICOKE — Arrest papers for a couple charged Friday in the death of their 2 1/2-month old son allege they fought over caring for the baby to get sleep as the mother consumed alcohol before dozing off with the infant in her arms.
Authorities said Jaxon Eckrote was found dead inside the residence of Tracey Gonda, 40, and Corey L. Eckrote, 49, at 340 E. Noble St. on Feb. 14. The baby was wedged in a recliner for several hours before Gonda made the haunting discovery, arrest papers say.
Gonda allegedly consumed two 24-ounce size cans of a malt beverage purchased by Eckrote before they argued about watching Jaxon as they each wanted to sleep. Gonda fell asleep in a recliner with Jaxon in her arms, authorities said.
Gonda and Eckrote were charged by city police and Luzerne County detectives with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. Gonda was further charged with reckless endangerment and false reports to law enforcement.
District Judge Donald Whittaker arraigned the couple late Friday morning. They were released after posting $50,000 bail each.
Authorities said Gonda used “dangerous drugs” and consumed alcohol during her pregnancy and sought no pre-natal care. She gave birth to Jaxon on Nov. 22 at Moses Taylor Hospital, Scranton.
Luzerne County Children and Youth Services became involved and awarded legal and parental custody of Jaxon and Gonda’s other son with another man to Eckrote. A family service plan was developed Jan. 3 that changed Gonda’s visitation with her sons from Children and Youth offices to their East Noble Street residence.
Authorities said on Feb. 13, Gonda and Eckrote were arguing about needing sleep and for the other to care for Jaxon. Eckrote had Jaxon for about 15 minutes before giving the baby back to Gonda, saying he needed to sleep because he had work the next morning, according to the criminal complaint.
Gonda initially told police she woke up and found Jaxon unresponsive in a bassinet and called her mother, Deborah Goodman, before calling 911, the complaint says.
While police were questioning Gonda inside the residence, her other son interrupted saying, “Jaxon was lying face down with his head between the cushion, right here.”
Dried blood and saliva were allegedly found on the recliner, police said.
Gonda later admitted she fell asleep with Jaxon in her arms in the recliner. She woke up thinking Eckrote had taken Jaxon in the middle of the night. Gonda said she got up from the recliner and went to a bed with her other son, the complaint says.
Eckrote allegedly told police he woke up to get ready for work thinking Jaxon was sleeping in a crib in another bedroom.
Authorities charged Eckrote due to his alleged neglect by allowing Gonda to care for Jaxon unsupervised in violation of the Jan. 3 family service plan.
An autopsy by Forensic Pathologist Dr. Gary Ross showed Jaxon died from asphyxiation. Luzerne County Coroner William Lisman listed Jaxon’s death a homicide.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled on June 4 but will likely be continued.