Jazmen Nicole Hazelrigs was sentenced to serve 17 years with no probation for her role in the sudden death of her 4-month-old child last summer.
On Friday morning, Hazelrigs pled guilty in a non-negotiated blind plea presented by the District Attorney’s office.
During the course of the plea, the court heard from several witnesses to the lifestyle Hazelrigs maintained over the course of the summer of 2015.
Brittany Parker spent several weeks at the residence with her five-year-old while she was pregnant. She testified that she and Hazelriggs used meth together frequently while their children were often left unsupervised.
Her remarks painted a picture of extreme neglect in the household. With Hazelrigs often feeling burdened by her children, she allegedly neglected their hygiene and care. Parker told the court that she found herself changing the diapers of Hazelrigs children and feeding them because it seemed like the right thing to do.
“Being a mom myself, I felt the kids were entitled to some attention and I didn’t want them to do without – going hungry and being dirty,” Parker said. “I believe she loved her children, but felt very frustrated and overwhelmed being a single mother to three kids.”
According to Parker, the meth use was incessant in the home. She testified that Hazlerigs was using meth every 20 to 30 minutes and would go days without sleeping.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 7, Parker said she saw Hazelrigs put Harmony down to sleep in her bassinet at 2:30 a.m. and the infant seemed to be in good health. When she awoke at 10:30 the next morning, she could hear Harmony crying and Jasmine talking on the phone.
Parker said she got the other children dressed and fed and wasn’t concerned with what was happening in Jasmine’s room. After feeding the children lunch, Parker recalled that the oldest child wanted to play outside, so she told him to ask his mother.
“He beat on the door, yelling for his momma, but she didn’t come to the door and it remained locked,” she recalled.
Shortly thereafter, Parker recalled being out of baby wipes and went to Hazelrigs room to get some. Again, she failed to answer the door.
“I banged on the doors, all the walls – just trying to get her to come to the door,” Parker said. “I even got a knife to try and unlock her door but that didn’t work.”
During the period where her door remained locked, Parker recalled hearing loud music coming from inside the room – “too loud to be in a closed bedroom with a baby.”
Around 2:30 p.m., Parker recalled hearing Hazelrigs screaming, but thought nothing much about it.
“I thought she was just on the phone with someone,” she said. “I became concerned when it didn’t stop and she started calling my name.”
Parker ran to the room where she was met by a sweaty, frantic Hazelrigs who kept repeating “My baby, my baby … what have I done?”
Inside the room, Parker found Harmony lying unresponsive on a large stack of pillows on the bed.
“It was clear she was dead,” Parker recalled. “I didn’t feel her skin, I just fell to the floor in tears.”
As the children came near the room, Parker took Jasmine to the hallway to keep them from entering the room to see the infant. Instead of calling 911, Parker called a friend.
While the kids remained on the sofa, the friend went upstairs to see what had happened. He called 911 and placed the call on speakerphone while the operator attempted to give instructions on how to revive the infant.
In a video recorded by Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk, Hazelrigs attempted to show how she found her baby lying in the bed next to her when she woke up.
In the subsequent drug tests performed after the death of Harmony, the 4-year-old son had a level of 9,822 picograms per milligram of methamphetamine in his bloodstream – roughly one third of the level that was found in Hazelrigs.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian stated that in the medical examiner’s findings, the cause of death remains undetermined.
“The autopsy disclosed a rare optical petechial hemorrhage, along with facial and oral marks, which raise suspicion,” he said. “However, they don’t provide a definitive cause of death.”
He also cited there were no definite signs of trauma and the toxicology of the infant came back as negative, but the sleeping environment poses a risk for asphyxial death which cannot be excluded.
While the autopsy did not state SIDS as the cause of death, it did say that it’s a possibility as much as foul play, according to Mooradian.
“These cases are becoming common,” said Mooradian. “Meth mothers are endangering their children and waking up with dead babies next to them. It’s serious and the court should consider what she’s pleading guilty to and the suspicious circumstances around the death.”
Public Defender Rick Samper stressed that no one ever saw Hazelrigs co-sleeping with her infant and that it was “a difficult case, filled with difficult facts.”
“I hate to say this, but continuing to live is often worse than death itself,” Samper said to the court. “Putting her (Hazelrigs) in prison won’t punish her any more than her waking up every day and thinking about Harmony.”
Samper pled with the court to enroll Hazelrigs in an RSAT (Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners) program to help get her life back on track and to grant first offender status.
In phone conversations recorded while Hazelrigs was incarcerated, she is heard talking about wanting to get high as soon as she’s out of jail. In another, she admits to her boyfriend that she’s “scared” about getting out and possibly failing again.
“In these conversations, we know that relapse is part of addiction,” Samper said. “In an RSAT program, she can be incarcerated, off the streets and getting the treatment she needs.”
In her remarks to Judge Sakrison, Jasmine said that she acknowledges she wasn’t the perfect mother, she had only begun using methamphetamine after her roommate won the lottery and made it available.
“It was free and it was there, but I know it doesn’t make it okay,” she said. “I know I can’t bring Harmony back, but I love my kids and want to fight for them.”
Judge Sakrison acknowledged that the case was extremely disturbing – taking issue with the reckless amounts of methamphetamine that the children tested positive for.
“I’ve heard a lot of excuses, but not much remorse,” he said. “This is not the type of case that qualifies as a first offender and you need to face responsibility for your actions in a significant way.”
“From everything I’ve heard, you’re very fortunate that you’re being allowed to plead guilty to something that isn’t a murder case.”