Spartanburg County Prosecutor's Office/AP
04/04/2014 at 01:00 PM EDT
Weighing 7 lbs., 2 oz. at birth, Alexis Catherine Greene gained only 4 oz. over the next month. She grew pale, became lethargic and struggled to breathe.
At 6 weeks old, she died, and an autopsy found enough morphine in her brain, liver and blood to kill an adult. With no puncture marks or other trauma, Alexis – authorities concluded – could only have gotten the drug through breast-feeding.
On Friday, her mother Stephanie Greene, 39, a former nurse from Campobello, S.C., was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of homicide by child abuse, involuntary manslaughter and unlawful conduct toward a child for allegedly passing on the morphine to her baby through breast milk.
"She loved her drugs more than she loved her child," prosecutor Barry Barnette told the Spartanburg, S.C., jury in summations Thursday, according to the Herald-Journal
During the trial over the baby's November 2010 death, Greene was accused of using her nursing skills to "work the system" to hide from doctors that she was taking morphine and other drugs while pregnant and nursing.
Greene's attorney, Wise C. Rauch, plans to appeal, arguing that there was no evidence the morphine passed through the breast milk and that there has never been a reported U.S. case of a baby dying by morphine overdose through nursing.
Rauch told the jury that Greene suffered chronic pain from medical problems. He acknowledged she “may not have been as honest as she should have and that's the problem with pain medicine," but denied she was the criminal portrayed by the prosecution.
"They've made Stephanie Greene out to be a demon – drug-seeking, drug-addict demon – someone who has no concern for her child," Rauch said, according to the Herald-Journal
. "Stephanie Greene is a woman in pain."