Baby who died in Vermont was healthy and happy, mom says

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The parents of the six-month-old baby who died at a Rutland daycare in January say their daughter was healthy when they dropped her off that morning — and they never told the center’s owner to administer any medications.

Harper Rose Briar had high concentrations of the active ingredient in over-the-counter antihistamines in her blood when she was pronounced dead at Rutland Regional Medical Center on January 24, an autopsy report found.

Stacey L. Vaillancourt, 53, the owner of the licensed, in-home center on North Street was arrested Monday and has been charged with manslaughter and cruelty to a child. 

Briar’s parents, Blake Briar and Marissa Colburn, say Harper was a happy baby who had just started crawling and holding a bottle on her own.

The child was well into her third day at Vaillancourt’s daycare center when Colburn she received a text message from an EMT telling her that Harper was sick and on her way to the hospital in an ambulance.

A week ago, Colburn and Briar learned from the autopsy results that Harper died of diphenhydramine intoxication. Diphenhydramine is a sedating ingredient in Benedryl and other over-the-counter antihistamines, and it’s not to be used on infants without an order from a physician. 

Colburn said neither she nor a physician had ordered diphenhydramine for Harper.

“There really was no need for it,” she said. “There is no need to give a healthy, happy baby anything to sedate them.”

On Monday, Vaillancourt pleaded not guilty to the charges, each of which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. She was released on a $25,000 bond.

A few dozen members of Briar’s family, wearing pink “Justice for Harper Rose” t-shirts, were in the courtroom for the hearing. Colburn said she and her husband would like to see justice served on their daughter’s behalf.

“We don’t understand,” she said, “and I don’t think we ever really will understand. It’s awful.”

“When you have a child that can’t talk or stand up for themselves, you don’t know what’s going on and the person you think you can trust, they could be doing something you don’t know about. Unfortunately for us, it makes us never want to use a day care again,” Marissa said.

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