New Castle woman made incriminating Google searches before death of boyfriend’s toddler, police say

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — A New Castle toddler died from acetone poisoning last June. Now, her father’s girlfriend is facing charges in her death.

Iris Alfera was taken to UPMC Jameson in critical condition after an incident that happened on the 400 block of Electric Street in New Castle at 2:06 p.m. on June 25, 2023.

The 18-month-old died on June 29 at UPMC Children’s Hospital. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office told police she tested positive for acetone in her blood. Her cause of death was ruled as acetone poisoning and her manner of death was determined to be homicide.

There have been several Facebook posts by the group Iris’ Angels following news of an arrest. In one of them, the family writes, “Please do not allow Iris’ memory tear our beautiful community apart . Accept their disbelief and move forward towards helping Iris’ loving family find justice and peace.”

We are in front of 420 Electric street where Iris’ father and his girlfriend Allisia Owens reside. This is the home Baby...

Posted by Iris’ Angels on Thursday, January 11, 2024

According to the criminal complaint, Iris was in the custody of her father when the 911 call was made. He left the house to go to the store when he got a call from his live-in girlfriend, Aleisia Owens, that Iris was lethargic and something appeared to be wrong.

Owens said Iris had fallen from the bed but didn’t hit her head, the complaint said. Iris’ father told dispatch this, but Owens chimed in to say Iris had hit her head.

Owens told police she seated Iris on the bed to feed her, during which her arms and legs “cramped up.” She then fell sideways off of the bed onto the floor, where her chest “collapsed.” Owens said she started chest compressions and called Jacoby, and then the 911 call was placed.

The mattress was approximately 6 inches off the carpeted floor, the complaint said.

UPMC Jameson emergency physicians told police they strongly suspected Iris’ injuries were the result of child abuse, so Owens and the father were taken for questioning.

>> Family of New Castle toddler who died hold vigil, look for answers

According to the complaint, Owens told police that she called her boyfriend immediately after she noticed something was wrong with Iris.

The complaint said Owens detailed her ongoing relationship with her boyfriend and their care of Iris when she was in their custody. She told police neither she nor her boyfriend let Iris out of their sight and were very diligent with her care, going as far as to say there was no chance she got into anything because the bathroom cabinets were locked.

Owens provided her cell phone for extrication, the complaint said.

>> Family of New Castle toddler who died still looking for answers, holds event to raise awareness

The father told police during his questioning that Owens had texted and called him before he told her to call 911, the complaint stated.

After Iris’ death, doctors told police she had a subdural hematoma, bilateral retinal hemorrhages, acetone in her blood and her body was in organ failure, all of which occurred at some point during the weekend she was in the custody of her father and Owens, according to the complaint. A doctor told police any “reasonable caretaker” would have noticed cognitive changes in Iris following the injuries.

The father and Owens both said that in the 24 hours before the 911 call, Iris had vomited two or three times, but was otherwise “normal,” the complaint said.

During the investigation, police discovered that Iris swallowed over 20 “water beads,” three “button” type batteries and a metal screw between March 30 and April 1, according to investigators.

While searching through phone records, police said they found Owens had conducted several Google searches from February to June related to the criminal actions and facts that directly led to Iris’ death, including questions about children drinking acetone or nail polish, poisonous beauty products, “water beads near me,” poisonous products to babies and kids, what happens if a baby swallows a button battery, medications that can poison children, medications you shouldn’t give a baby and more.

According to the complaint, Owens also searched how to pass a polygraph test.

Owens is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault of a child less than 6 years of age, endangering the welfare of children and aggravated assault of a child less than 13 years of age and faces a life sentence.

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