Mother charged with murder of 19-month-old daughter

September 12

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that his office has filed a first-degree murder charge against a Joliet woman in connection with the January death of her 19-month-old daughter.

The charge alleges that Sarah Campbell-Merker, 27, of the 900 block of Audrey Avenue, caused Jaycee Merker to ingest diphenhydramine knowing that doing so created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.

Diphenhydramine is an over-the-counter antihistamine that is commonly used to treat symptoms associated with allergies, hay fever or the common cold. The medicine also can be taken to treat motion sickness or to induce sleep.

A Will County judge on Tuesday morning approved an arrest warrant with a $2 million bond. Campbell-Merker was accompanied by her attorney when she surrendered to Joliet police Tuesday afternoon without incident. She must post $200,000 in cash to secure her release from the Will County Jail while awaiting trial.

Jaycee Merker was found dead in her crib by her father on the morning of Jan. 10, 2006. An autopsy conducted on the girl on the date of her death determined the cause of death to be “diphenhydramine intoxication.”

“I was profoundly saddened and troubled by the death of this innocent little girl,” Glasgow said. “This distressing case has commanded the attention of Joliet detectives and prosecutors from my office for the past nine months. The decision was made to file the murder charge against the child’s mother only after the completion of an exhaustive investigation.”

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office reminds the public that a charge is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.