18-month-old ‘poisoned’ by father’s girlfriend after ‘feeding the child water beads, button-shaped batteries, and metal screws’

An 18-month-old child was poisoned to death after swallowing batteries and screws, leading to the arrest of the baby’s father’s girlfriend on homicide charges.

Aleisia Lynnae Owens, 20, faces charges including three counts of homicide, five counts of aggravated assault, and one count of endangering the welfare of children in connection to the death of Iris Rita Alfera in Pennsylvania. Iris was admitted to the hospital on June 25 and remained in the PICU until her death on June 29. Following an investigation, New Castle police discovered that Owens had extensively researched harmful substances for children online and it was later determined that the toddler died from acetone poisoning. The baby’s autopsy revealed traces of acetone in her blood, which led to organ failure. Acetone is commonly found in nail and varnish remover.

Additionally, the police department disclosed that months before Iris’s death, she had ingested numerous silicone-based ‘water beads,’ which later expanded in her digestive system. Water beads are circular decorations kept in a jar. The baby also ingested button-shaped batteries and metal screws, which were found in her diapers. These items were ingested between March 30 and April 1, months before her death, according to WPIX.

Police found that Owens had searched Google multiple times between February and June, inquiring about the effects of children ingesting acetone, poisonous beauty products, water beads, the consequences of swallowing a battery button, and medications unsuitable for babies. Owens was arrested and filmed walking with police while in handcuffs. District Judge Richard A. Russo read Owens her charges, and she remained ‘dry-eyed and expressionless,’ as reported by the New Castle News. Owens was taken to Lawrence County Jail and is detained without bond.

Frank Alfera, the baby’s grandfather, expressed relief at Owens’s arrest and emphasized that it would be a long process in the court system. The baby’s mother, Emily Alfera, has continued to share touching tributes to her daughter since her passing. Iris lived with her mother and grandparents, while her father, Bailey Jacoby, had visitation rights.

The father had lived with Owens for about a year before Iris’s death. Emily posted on her Facebook a day after Iris died, expressing her disbelief and grief at losing her daughter. A separate Facebook page called Iris’ angels was created to honor the baby and serves as a nonprofit organization. Iris’s mother has been raising awareness for child abuse by creating purple posters, sweatshirts, and bags, and distributing them around Iris’s hometown. A GoFundMe page was set up when Iris was initially hospitalized and has raised over $17,000. Iris’s father has not publicly commented on his girlfriend’s arrest or his daughter’s death. Police stated that there is no evidence linking him or anyone else to the baby’s death, and he was cooperative during questioning.