Mother accused of fatally poisoning son indicted
BELLE CHASSE (AP) — A Plaquemines Parish grand jury Wednesday handed up an indictment against a Belle Chasse woman on a charge of first-degree murder for allegedly injecting hand sanitizer into her sickly son’s feeding tube.
Ericka Wigstrom, 20, also was charged with attempting to kill 17-month-old Lucas Ruiz more than 14 months ago, on the same day the child’s father allegedly gave him rum.
Detectives have said Wigstrom described the poisoning as an act of mercy. The baby was born with Down syndrome and a condition in which he had holes in his heart that required corrective surgery and necessitated a feeding tube.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1o1MGK5) District Attorney Charles Ballay will not seek the death penalty against Wigstrom. But, if convicted as charged, she would face a mandatory life sentence.
Wigstrom’s arraignment is May 5.
Wigstrom was not in court Wednesday. However, she appeared Monday before state District Judge Kevin Conner, who set a $750,000 bond. She remained jailed as of Wednesday, Cmdr. Eric Becnel of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
The child’s father, Cesar Ruiz, 20, is charged in Jefferson Parish with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile. Prosecutors accuse him of giving alcohol to his son through his feeding tube during a hospital stay on Oct. 26, 2012, when the child was 2 months old.
In October 2012, Lucas was awaiting heart surgery at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson. But after he had seizures, doctors performed tests that revealed his blood-alcohol content was 0.289 percent, almost four times higher than the legal limit for adults to drive in Louisiana.
During the investigation that followed, Ruiz gave a statement to detectives in which they say he implicated himself in the alcohol poisoning. Deputies booked him with attempted first-degree murder, but prosecutors charged him with the cruelty charge.
At the time, Wigstrom told Jefferson Parish detectives that Ruiz had said he hoped that their son would die during the surgery, according to an arrest report. Then, on Facebook last year, Wigstrom said she wasn’t aware at the time that Ruiz had poisoned her son.
Yet earlier this month, Wigstrom confessed she poisoned her child in October 2012. She also appeared to seek to absolve Ruiz of wrongdoing. Jefferson Parish prosecutors, however, have given no indication that they will abandon the case, apparently in light of his statement to detectives and the possibility that both parents harmed the child.
Ruiz was released last week from jail after a judge cut his bond from $100,000 to $10,000, records show.
Wigstrom’s confession in part played a role in Jefferson Parish Judge June Berry Darensburg’s decision last week to reduce Ruiz’s bail substantially. She ordered that Ruiz be under house arrest, allowing him to leave home only for school, religious services and work.