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Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) , Published July 09 2012

Woman deemed ‘vodka mom’ on Nancy Grace's show dies of self-inflicted burns

MINNEAPOLIS —A who was ridiculed as “vodka mom” on national television for drunkenly rolling onto and asphyxiating her 3-week-old son in November died after setting herself on fire, police said.

Toni Medrano, 29, of Cottage Grove, Minn., died Saturday at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, said Don Gorrie, a spokesman for the Ramsey County medical examiner.

Medrano doused herself in a flammable liquid on July 2 and set herself afire in her mother’s backyard in St. Paul Park, said Police Chief Michael Monahan. Medrano was “despondent and suicidal over personal issues,” he said.

Medrano was charged last month in Washington County with two counts of manslaughter in the death of Adrian Alexander Medrano, who was born Nov. 1. The infant died of asphyxia Nov. 22.

County Attorney Pete Orput said he was saddened Medrano’s death, and that he believed that Medrano had been seeking the county’s help for chemical dependency and parenting counseling. “She chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” Orput said.

According to the criminal complaint filed last month, the baby’s father came home Nov. 21 to find his wife drunk and sleeping on the couch with the boy and warned her against such behavior. The next morning, Medrano woke her husband by yelling, “The baby is dead.”

Jason Medrano went downstairs and called 911 about 10:30 a.m. The complaint said police arrived to find the father trying to resuscitate the boy, who wasn’t breathing and was already cold to the touch. The baby was pronounced dead at a hospital in Woodbury.

Medrano admitted to drinking a fifth of vodka in the hours before her son died, according to the criminal complaint. Medrano also told police she had gone to bed at midnight, but awoke at 3 a.m. and fed the baby formula. She awoke three more times and spoke with her other children, but did not leave the couch.

A preliminary blood alcohol concentration test administered by police showed Medrano at 0.11 grams per decliter. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.

About a week after she was charged, CNN talk-show host Nancy Grace featured the case on her show. Grace held up a fifth of cheap vodka and said she was going to see how many glasses she could get out of the bottle. She poured at least nine in the segment as the words “vodka mom” appeared on the screen.

Grace said during the show that she had attempted to contact Medrano at her house. She then spoke to a reporter from her show and two officials unfamiliar with the case as she theorized that Medrano had been sleeping on her child for hours. “There was a long period of time that baby’s life could have been saved,” Grace said.

She said the baby was purple and one guest theorized that was from a “pooling of blood” because he had been dead for so long. “Why no murder one charges?” Grace asked, referring to the charge for premeditated murder.

Calls and emails seeking comment from CNN and Grace’s show weren’t answered Monday.