Double Tragedy: Mother Charged With Smothering Infant Son Sets Herself On Fire

July 10, 2012  |  

Earlier this year, Toni Medrano, 29, of Cottage Grove, MN, was charged with manslaughter after her 3-week old son Aiden died of suffocation in November. Now, the woman has taken her own life. Overcome with grief, and according to some, the ridicule of HLN Cable News host Nancy Grace who reported on the story, the young woman set herself on fire in her mother’s back yard and died later at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

According to Twincities.com:

On the night of Nov. 21, 2011, Medrano allegedly drank a fifth of vodka before falling asleep on a couch in her Cottage Grove home. She slept next to her son.

About 10:30 a.m. the next day, police received a call that the baby had died. An autopsy found he was asphyxiated when Medrano fell asleep drunk and smothered him.

On June 8, Medrano was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter by the county attorney’s office. Her blood-alcohol content was 0.11 in a breath test taken at 11:04 a.m. Nov. 22.

When Nancy Grace got a hold of the story, a segment aired about the mother on June 11 in which she was dubbed “the vodka mom” and many other news outlets followed along with cruel comments from observers. Toni’s husband, Jason Medrano told news outlets yesterday:

“The things people said were horrible. It shows that cyberbullying happens to adults, too.”

As happens with more bullied teens and adolescents than we’d care to think, Toni attempted to take her own life when at 4 am on July 2, she doused herself with a flammable liquid in her mother’s back yard in St. Paul Park. Five days later she succeeded when she succumbed to the life-threatening injuries she was rushed to the hospital with. Police concurred that she was “despondent and suicidal over personal issues,” the question is was one of those personal issues Nancy Grace’s badgering?

Chris Ison, professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, told Twin Cities no news program can be blamed for suicide but inappropriate reporting certainly could have contributed to the choice.

“There can be bad consequences,” he said. “It is troubling to track such serious topics and use them as entertainment — in a way that is sensational, mocking, accusatory and loud.

“One of the basic principles of journalism is to minimize harm, but we cause harm all the time. We have to weigh it against the value of the news presented, and shows like this one are out of balance.”

I wouldn’t say Nancy is directly to blame but her segment was certainly sensational as she poured vodka to demonstrate just how much Toni had to drink that night and seemed to have no regard for the personal issues that likely drove the mother to become so intoxicated in the first place. What’s even more interesting is this isn’t the first time someone attempted to pass the buck of blame for a suicide to the over-the-top host. ABC News says a Leesburg, FL, mother was considered a possible suspect when she told police in 2006 that her baby was missing. When she appeared on “Nancy Grace,” she was intensely interrogated and just one week later she killed herself .

So far, no one from the Nancy Grace show nor its parent company CNN have commented on the situation. I wonder if the host will have as much to say about this woman’s death as she did about her actions back in November.

Check out the clip of the “vodka mom” segment. Do you think Nancy can be held accountable at all?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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