A 23-year-old Needville woman who announced on social media in 2016 she felt like harming her baby, then killed her 2-month-old son, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Rosemary Paige Harrah pleaded guilty to murder during a bench hearing in the 400th District Court before Presiding Judge Maggie Perez-Jaramillo.

Rosemary Harrah

Rosemary Paige Harrah

Harrah was charged with capital murder, punishable by death, but she agreed to plea to the lesser offense of murder.

“Justice requires that the facts of every case must be individually evaluated when determining an appropriate resolution,” said Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton. “Cases of serious injury or death of children, such as this case, which involved the intentional act of suffocating an innocent and helpless infant, are truly abhorrent and deserving of harsh punishment. In this case, the defense presented us with credible mitigating evidence that warranted the reduction of the charge to murder and the resulting agreement of 40 years in prison.”

According to authorities, the Needville Fire Department and EMS were summoned to Harrah’s Needville residence on Dec. 11, 2016, where they found Harrah’s dead son.

Harrah indicated to first responders that she had fed her baby the night before, gone to bed, and found the baby unresponsive and not breathing in the morning, prosecutors said. However, some 10 days later, the Needville Police Department received an anonymous email reporting that a person using the online name of “Shimmering” from Needville had posted on a web site for new mothers that she was thinking of hurting her baby.

In the email, the tipster provided the name of the child and evidence that the posting community had advised “Shimmering” to seek counseling or consider giving her child up for adoption.

“Needville Police Lt. Craig Rader recognized the importance of the information in the anonymous email once he verified that the child named in the tip had passed away,” said Assistant District Attorney Melissa Munoz, who helped prosecute the case for the state.

Rader immediately notified the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office because the child had died outside of Needville’s city limits. With the information from the tip, deputy detective Thomas Cantu interviewed Harrah and confirmed that she had indeed posted on the new mother’s web site using the name “Shimmering.”

“Harrah confessed to Detective Cantu that she had covered her baby’s face with a blanket and applied pressure until he stopped moving and crying and then put him back down in his bed,” Munoz said.

Harrah told Cantu that she did not check on her baby until the following morning and that she knew he was probably unconscious or dead, Munoz added. The Galveston County Medical Examiner ruled that suffocation caused the baby’s death. Harrah was indicted by a grand jury for the offense of capital murder in March of 2017.

“But for the concern of the anonymous tipster and diligent police work by Lt. Rader and Detective Cantu, this case probably would not have been recognized as a homicide,” Munoz said. “The follow up on the anonymous tip and subsequent search warrants for the defendant’s communications to the internet web site was critical to this case and helped establish the defendant’s true intent.”

Murder is a first-degree felony punishable from 5 to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Child Abuse Division Deputy Chief Terese Buess noted that the defendant will have to serve one-half of her sentence before she is eligible for parole.

After the plea, prosecutors read the victim impact statements on behalf of the paternal grandparents of the child victim.

Prosecutors did not provide any information on the child’s father.

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