Investigation of sudden infant deaths in the State of Maryland (1990-2000)

Ling Li, David Fowler, Liang Liu, Mary G. Ripple, Zoe Lambros, John E. Smialek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has recorded a significant decline in the deaths of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the state of Maryland since 1994. However, infants who died of accidental or non-accidental injuries remained consistent during the same time period. This report focuses on the epidemiological characteristics and scene investigation findings of infant victims who died suddenly and unexpectedly in Maryland between 1990 and 2000. A retrospective study of OCME cases between 1990 and 2000 yielded a total of 1619 infant fatalities. 802 infant deaths were determined to be SIDS, which represented 50% of the total infant deaths in our study population. Five hundred and twenty-three (31.8%) deaths were due to natural diseases, 128 (7.9%) deaths were accidents, and 74 (4.6%) were homicides. The manner of death could not be determined after a thorough scene investigation, review of history and a complete postmortem examination in 92 (5.7%) infants. SIDS deaths most often involved infants who were male and black. The peak incidence of SIDS was between 2 and 4 months of age. The majority of SIDS infants (60%) were found unresponsive on their stomach. Among SIDS infants, 269 (33.4%) were found in bed with another person or persons (bed sharing). Of the bed-sharing SIDS cases, 182 (68%) were African-American. In the past 11 years, 52 infants died of asphyxia due to unsafe sleeping environment, such as defective cribs, ill-fitting mattresses, inappropriate bedding materials. Of the 74 homicide victims, 53 (70%) involved infants less than 6 months of age. Twenty (27%) exhibited the classical abuse syndrome characterized by repeated acts of trauma to the infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 10 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Asphyxia
  • Death scene investigation
  • Infanticide
  • Sleeping environment
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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