Shaken Baby Syndrome: Case Summaries 401 - 444
Please read the introductory information before Case Summaries 1 - 100.
I would very much appreciate you contacting me if you are involved in a case. I may or may not have seen news coverage about it. Only fatal cases are well covered in the news, and even then the coverage may be incomplete.
0401: The mother’s friend, 21, was left to care for her 3-year-old daughters and her two younger brothers while the mother worked. The grandmother arrived to pick up the girl early in the afternoon. She noticed something was wrong and took her to the hospital.
Doctors found trauma to the head and bilateral retinal hemorrhaging. They said she had been violently shaken. Under questioning, the defendant said he had panicked when the girl began choking on a hot dog. “I panicked, and I was just trying to do the best I could.” The defense attorney said it would have required a tremendous amount of force to hold the 33-pound girl and shake her as prosecutors alleged.
The prosecutor said, “In healthy, out dead and sometime in the middle, a violent force was applied to this child.”
Jurors deliberated for 90 minutes before rendering a guilty verdict. The defendant was sentenced to 47 years.
At his sentencing, he made a tearful statement to the judge. “Yes, I wish I had called 911 but I did not think anything of it because the hot dog came up and she was playing later.” He said he had shaken her and patted her on the back for 5-10 minutes in an effort to dislodge the hot dog.
0402: Authorities claimed that the mother’s boyfriend, 20, shook her 11-month-old son while she was in the shower. The baby had been sick with the “croup” for three days or so and they’d been running hot water in the shower to create steam to help him breathe. When he and the mother bathed the boy that morning, he had vomited. While the mother was in the shower in preparation for taking the baby to the doctor, the defendant stepped away from the child to get a clean diaper and wipes. He said the boy threw himself back on the floor and hit his head. The baby was unresponsive. He blew on his face but it didn’t work.
The mother told police at the time that her boyfriend was “a wonderful role model around children.” She said it was not possible that he hurt him. He had helped his mother in her day care for nine years and was very good with children.
Police said the defendant told different stories about how the boy, who seemed fine before the shower, went limp and stopped breathing. The baby died sixteen days later in a different state.
The medical examiner ruled the cause of death was shaken baby syndrome.
An issue became which state had the authority to conduct the autopsy. The alleged crime was committed in one state and the child died in another.
The defense attorney asked for a Daubert hearing with the hope of excluding expert testimony as to the cause of death, as no credible scientific evidence exists to show a baby can be shaken to death. The prosecutor argued that the theory is widely accepted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and medical examiners.
The first degree murder charge was reduced to second degree murder prior to the trial. The first trial resulted in a hung jury and mistrial. The case was tried again. One issue was the altering of emergency room records and the destruction of the originals. 16-18 character witnesses testified on the defendant’s behalf. The defense attorney emphasized the importance of one of the jury instructions, which said that circumstantial evidence, in order to be considered, must be inconsistent with any theory of the defendant’s innocence. “Just because there’s the death of an innocent, do we have a homicide?” he asked. “In the final analysis, the State has no evidence ... that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that [the defendant] is guilty.”
After about 50 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict.
0403: An 11-month-old girl seemed to be fine when she arrived at day care. Forty-two minutes later, she stopped breathing on the living room floor. She died the next morning.
The autopsy revealed a massive skull fracture, a large blood clot, and extensive old bleeding around the brain, as well as a fresh bruise on the front of her brain and new bleeding around the brain and in the eyes. Doctors concluded the older injuries were irrelevant and that recent injuries showed she had been shaken or slammed to death during the 42 minutes with the sitter. No one investigated the baby’s mother.
The sitter, a 41-year-old mother of two, was charged with first degree murder. Her first trial ended in a hung jury. The next time, she chose a bench trial, thinking a judge could better understand the complicated medical evidence. Despite her reputation as a gentle and deeply religious woman with no history of violence, she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The judge said the state’s evidence in his opinion was overwhelming. He acknowledged that there was only circumstantial evidence, but the facts that she was the only adult with the girl when the fatal injuries were inflicted and that those injuries could not have been accidental were decisive.
After the conviction, it came out that the baby had fallen and hit her head hard on a table at home before the sitter picked her up that day. The judge refused to grant a new trial but she appealed and was granted a third trial. She had served two years in prison by the time she was acquitted of all charges.
0404: The 9-month-old boy and an older sister were dropped off at the sitter’s about 8:00. The sitter was also watching her own children, 2 years old and 7 months. The women knew each other from the church choir and the mother had requested care for her children because she had to go to work on the Welfare to Work program. The State paid only $3.00 an hour for the sitter to watch both her kids. The sitter said she’d have watched them for free, because she loved the kids and was glad to help out.
During the months she watched the children, she became more and more concerned about their home environment. Once an older sister called her, crying that the baby was bleeding and no one was there to help. She went over quickly and handled the situation, which wasn’t serious. The children were alone in the home. She learned they were often left alone. For several weeks before the baby collapsed, she had been thinking about how to best withdraw from the babysitting situation.
The sitter watched the children on a Monday. Tuesday, she called early and said she couldn’t because she had a migraine. The mother left four children home alone all day Tuesday, the 9-month-old baby, a 3-year old girl, a 5-year-old girl, and an 8-year-old daughter in charge. An 11-year-old brother, who was often in trouble, went to school. The mother lied to police that the children had been with an aunt that day. Her lie did not come out until the day before the first trial, after the jury had been selected. The first trial ended in a mistrial when the mother refused to answer questions during cross-examination.
On the day in question, the baby was unusually lethargic, but he had been ill and his symptoms didn’t become alarming until late afternoon. In the afternoon, she was cleaning up in the kitchen when she heard a “thunk”. She found the baby lying on his back on the floor, crying. It was unusually difficult to comfort him. He eventually settled down but later had a seizure when she was changing his diaper. The mother came home shortly afterward and they rushed the baby to the hospital.
Two police officers arrived late that night, saying they needed to talk to her to help the baby. During a taped interview/interrogation, she was told that the baby might die. In answer to the question, “After you shook him, he stopped crying?” She answered, “Yes, he stopped crying.” The police officer testified to two grand juries that she had confessed but an analysis of the tape showed nothing but that ambiguous answer to a compound question. The police officer did not testify at the trial.
The officers had talked with the mother, but only for a short time and with no effort to verify her statements. She told them the sitter was wonderful with children and treated her children as if they were her own. The only suspect from the beginning was the sitter. She was charged with manslaughter.
Much was made of the fact that she had a migraine the day before. The prosecution’s theory was that she still had a migraine the day the baby collapsed as well, though there was no evidence to that effect. They said she became impatient with the baby’s crying and and shook him. It was an issue that she had not called 911 but had waited for the mother and took the baby to the hospital.
After about two hours of deliberation, the jury convicted her of manslaughter. Because of her perfect record and reputation, the judge suspended six years of a ten-year sentence.
0405: The father, 22, admitted to investigators that he shook his 6-month-old son three to four times because he would not stop crying. He also told officers he knew something was wrong with his son “because he was whimpering,” then “stopped crying and went limp.” The mother was at work when the incident occurred. She took the baby to the emergency room, “crying hysterically.” The father showed no apparent concern.
He was charged with second degree murder and bond was set at $750,000, cash only. In a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to felony abuse of a child. The punishment range was 10-30 years. He was sentenced to 17 years. 85% would have to be served before he would be eligible for parole.
The family made a statement during sentencing that they believed he had learned his lesson and would be an asset to society if he wasn’t in prison. The judge said, “Hopefully he’ll turn out to be a productive citizen” upon his release.
The prosecutor had originally planned to charge him with second degree murder but upgraded the charge to a Class A felony of abuse of a child. The reason for the change was a change in legislation that makes it easier for the prosecution to prove its case. Said the prosecutor, “The problem is how do you prove premeditation in a case like this? With the abuse of a child charge, all you have to do is show that abuse was committed and that something bad—or in this case, tragic—happened as a result of that abuse. I don’t know who in the legislature came up with this, but it is just brilliant. It has eliminated the more extensive proof process for prosecutors.”
0406: The 2-month-old boy’s father dropped him off at the sitter’s home between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Seven hours later, the sitter called 911, saying the boy had stopped breathing
Doctors found bruises in his brain, bilateral retinal hemorrhage and bilateral optic nerve damage as well as a broken leg. They concluded he had been shaken and that she was lying to cover up what she had done. The baby died two days later.
The sitter, a mother of two, was charged with capital murder and held without bond. She was eligible for the death sentence. In a plea bargain, she was asked by the judge, “Did you shake this baby?” “Yes, sir,” she answered. She pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
0407: The 6-week-old boy was allegedly shaken by his father, 22. He sustained irreversible brain damage and was removed from the home and placed into foster care. Four days after the boy was injured, the Department of Health and Human Services was granted a do-not-resuscitate order. The baby’s parents say they alone had the authority to make that decision, not the state.
An attorney for DHHS said the order was requested because resuscitating the child would be “painful and inhumane.” The parents’ refusal to consent was “contrary to the welfare of the child.” A justice believed the refusal was to avoid a homicide charge.
The defense lawyer said a DNR order has the potential to end all other parental rights. She said those rights should be terminated. A decision would set standards for lower courts to determine when the right to make end-of-life decisions should be taken away from parents when a child is in state custody.
The decision was appealed all the way to the Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled unanimously in favor of the parents, saying they should have been allowed input and a hearing. The defense lawyer said a hearing was not sufficient. Barring a termination of their parental rights, she said, their wishes should be honored.
0408: The baby had severe brain trauma, fractures of his arms and legs, and a detached retina. His brain was swelling. Emergency surgery relieved pressure and saved his life but he was in critical condition.
When the parents felt they were suspected of harming him, they called an attorney who advised them not to talk to investigators. That attorney said at the arraignment that the prosecutor’s office acted in a retaliatory “and somewhat vindictive” manner by charging both parents with assault. The bond was set at $25,000 for each parent and they were prohibited from having any contact with their son. The mother wept when that order was read.
Family members described them as doting new parents. “My faith and confidence is they’ll both be exonerated,” said the paternal grandfather, a minister. The accused father holds a degree in theology and assists in his father’s church. The mother works for the American Red Cross on blood drives. Neither had any criminal record. “They love their baby,” said a grandmother.
0409: Both parents were arrested and charged with child endangerment after their 6-week-old son died of hemorrhaging to his brain and optical nerve. They were accused of not seeking timely medical attention for him. Both parents had a history of child abuse. They had eight children but most had been taken away and placed in foster care. The judge ordered that they were to have no contact whatsoever with each other because he didn’t want them making more babies. Bond for each was set at $1 million.
The father was charged with murder. The mother was charged with involuntary manslaughter and failure to get prompt medical attention.
The prosecutor said the baby may have sustained the life-threatening injuries more than 24 hours and as much as 3 days before the 911 call was made.
The father entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He was deemed incompetent for trial and sent to a mental health facility to restore his competency to stand trial. The mother was also deemed incompetent to stand trial. She met with mental health workers, who restored her understanding of the court proceedings. She was deemed fit to stand trial and the judge reset her bond at $250,000.
In a dramatic turn of events two years after the baby’s death, the father suddenly admitted killing his child. In exchange for his plea, charges of endangering children, creating a substantial risk to the health and safety of a child, and child abuse were dismissed.
The mother pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and endangering children. She had eight children, all of whom had been taken away.
0410: The father, 26, called 911 and reported that his infant son had fallen and was not breathing. Tests revealed that the child had acute subdural hemorrhages, a fractured pelvis, eight fractured ribs, a fracture to the thigh bone and adrenal gland bleeding. He was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome.
At first, the story was that the baby had been accidentally dropped. The father admitted to having an anger problem and said he shook the child on more than one occasion when frustrated. He had called 911 when his son stopped breathing.
He had a criminal background, but was considered by the landlord to be a loving parent who was thrilled when his son was born. She said she was really in shock.
He pleaded guilty to first degree assault and was sentenced to 11 years. As part of his sentence, he agreed to participate in making an instructional video warning parents of the dangers of shaking children.
The baby, in serious condition shortly after the incident, steadily improved.
0411: The parents, who were Chinese, worked twelve-hour days from Monday through Saturday. For six days a week, their son was cared for 24 hours a day by another Chinese couple.
After 10 days, the baby was found dead in the sitters’ one-bedroom apartment. The sitter told the father he had cried continually from midnight to about 2:00 a.m., that he had been given some “gripe water” obtained at a Chinese pharmacy, and that he had settled down. He slept right next to their bed. When they woke up, the baby had “turned black.” He was not breathing and had no heartbeat.
An autopsy revealed brain injuries that doctors said could only be attributed to shaken baby syndrome.
Both parents were charged with first and second degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.
A medical expert at trial testified that shaking does not necessarily leave visible exterior marks. The infant would “cry sharply” and then, within 30 minutes, slip into a gradual coma that could resemble sleep. He also said that prompt medical attention could prevent fatality.
The defense argued that the charges should be dismissed because the prosecution could not prove who had abused the child. The prosecution argued that both were liable because at least one of them had shaken the baby and the other had failed to intervene. Both were convicted of first degree manslaughter. On appeal, the charge was reduced to second degree manslaughter. The appeals court found that they had failed to act “with intent to cause serious physical injury.”
Upon further appeal, the convictions were reversed on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to show whether husband or wife was responsible for the death or to prove that the passive spouse could have intervened. According to the Court, without proof of exactly when and where the death had occurred, the passive defendant’s mere presence in the apartment during the relevant time period was insufficient to establish criminal liability. The prosecution failed to prove the passive defendant had a duty to seek medical care because there was insufficient evidence that the passive parent knew of the need for such care. “We are duty bound to reverse these two defendants’ convictions because the alternative–incarcerating both individuals for a crime of which only one is demonstrably culpable–is an unacceptable option in a system that is based on personal accountability and presumes each accused to be innocent until proven otherwise.”
0412: The sitter, 19, said the 9-week-old baby of a friend was in a crib on his back while she was in the kitchen making a sandwich. He cried out from his crib one minute then went “completely limp and unresponsive” the next. She called 911 to report that he was breathing but unresponsive. He had been unusually fussy earlier that day. The sitter wept at the baby’s hospital bed and said to him, “I’m so sorry this happened.”
A pediatrician said she left something significant out of her story. Something significant, a severe shaking or violent impact, had actually happened between the time he was crying and the time he became unresponsive. “There’s no other explanation,” she said.
The baby’s mother was just 16. She agreed to take him off life support seven hours after his collapse.
The sitter’s story never changed. She insisted throughout that she had not shaken or hurt him. She said she cared for the child as if he were her own. “I do not think he died for no reason,” she testified. “But he did not die because I shook him.” Mothers of other children she had cared for testified that she was a devoted and knowledgeable baby sitter.
The prosecutor said, “There’s nothing confusing about this case because there was one, and only one, person with that baby when he became symptomatic.”
The defense said he died of natural causes. The prosecution insisted, “This was a very, very violent act.”
She was convicted and sentenced to 10 years. The judge said that as hard as it may be for her to acknowledge that her actions caused the baby’s death, “all the evidence points in that direction.”
An appeal failed.
0413: The baby had a reputation for being fussy. She was being treated for gastro-esophageal reflux disease, a condition that often caused her to spit up.
According to the baby’s mother, the father had difficulty dealing with her. Starting about 11:00 a.m. the day she collapsed, the father called his own mother for advice on how to calm the girl, who wouldn’t stop crying. The grandfather was in the home at the same time. The men called 911 a little after noon to report the baby was not breathing. She was found to have internal head injuries and a skull fracture.
Authorities alleged that the father shook and forcibly dropped the baby about 10:30 a.m. He said he put her in a swing and later noticed she was bleeding from the mouth.
He expressed remorse when questioned by authorities and signed a statement saying he had shaken the little girl. In a written confession, he admitted to having shaken and dropped the baby. Later, he said what he wrote and said to the police was a lie to appease the officers in order to get back to his family.
“They kept on pressing me and saying, ‘You know you did it. You know you did it.’ ... They harassed me into writing that statement. I cared about the welfare of my daughter, not the situation with the troopers.” The police insisted he was not a suspect but a “person of interest” at the time he was interviewed. That is why they did not inform him of his Miranda rights. They told him that they needed more information to help the baby receive treatment, not to help build a case against him.
He was charged with first degree murder.
After about 80 minutes of deliberation, jurors convicted him of the lesser charge of “third degree murder. He was sentenced to 9-18 years in prison.
0414: The parents were young and unmarried. After the baby was born, the mother took the baby to her mother’s home, but after two weeks was asked to leave. The parents moved to a homeless shelter. Shelter staff were concerned about the mother’s lack of parenting skills and her apparent failure to bond with the baby. She would leave the baby with shelter residents, including other children. One shelter resident saw her shaking the baby to make him stop crying.
At the age of one month, the baby became ill. He could not eat and had difficulty breathing. The mother took him to the emergency room and he was hospitalized for 5 days with severe respiratory distress, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and streptococcus.
When the baby got out of the hospital, the mother convinced the baby’s father to get an apartment with her. The mother was later driving her father’s car when she lost control and crashed. She didn’t take the baby to a doctor, perhaps because she didn’t have a driver’s license.
The father cared for the baby for most of the day he collapsed. The child was very sleepy all day. At about 10:00 p.m., the baby was found limp and could not be roused. At a medical center, he was in a vegetative state for over a year. By a court order, he was removed from life support and died.
Doctors said he had a healing skull fracture, subdural hematomas, and retinal hemorrhages. He also had healing rib fractures and other fractures. The fractures could not be reliably dated but doctors insisted that the loss of consciousness had to have occurred between a few minutes to an hour of when the baby was admitted to the hospital. That left only one suspect, the father. He insisted he had not harmed the child.
He was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 20-40 years.
Appeals, one based on the failure of the attorney to obtain the accident report from the mother’s auto accident a month before the baby’s collapse, were unsuccessful. Nine years later, a family friend, using the Freedom of Information Act, obtained a copy of the police report of that accident, which indicated the car was traveling 99 mph when the mother lost control and the car swerved into a ditch. It left 172 feet of skid marks. The baby had been in the car when it crashed.
The father personally wrote a second appeal, arguing that the baby “could have sustained prior internal injuries during the accident.”
The final outcome of this case is unknown.
0415: The baby was born several months premature and was a fraternal twin. She died at the age of 5 months, allegedly at the hands of her father, 20.
Doctors discovered subdural and retinal hemorrhages and suspected shaking baby syndrome. The police said he confessed, saying “I started shaking her faster and faster until I realized I was doing something I shouldn’t. I knew it was wrong, but I just got carried away.” There were no recordings or notes to verify that confession.
He denied any confession and said the baby had died of medical problems.
During the trial, jurors were shown a 15-minute entitled “Portrait of Promise: Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome” to prove malice.
He was charged with first degree murder and child endangerment. A jury convicted him of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. A judge, citing his lack of remorse, sentenced him to the maximum on both counts, to be served consecutively, 10 years.
He appealed, saying the trial court erred by excluding expert testimony concerning his alleged confession, admitting the video and permitting improper impeachment. Because the appellate court granted him a new trial on the basis of the video, it did not consider the other points. The appeals court ruled that the contents of the video were overly broad, constituted hearsay, and were more prejudicial than probative.
In the retrial, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment and given the same sentence, 10 years.
0416: The baby’s birth was prematurely induced because of a very complicated pregnancy, during which the mother gained only two pounds. The baby’s lungs were underdeveloped and he could barely breathe on his own. He was very tiny and stayed in intensive care for several days.
He was jaundiced for about a month. At two months, he was given six vaccines. He became feverish and fussy. About ten days after the shots, he developed what the parents described as a “strange, high-pitched” cry. He stopped eating and spit up more than usual.
One day as the father was changing a diaper, the baby spit up a lot. He then became still. He was not breathing. The father ran next door to borrow a car and raced the baby to the hospital.
At the hospital, he saw the doctors putting something down the baby’s throat. He heard a doctor saying, “Wrong tube! Wrong tube!”
A doctor told the parents the baby was going to die. He had broken ribs and a bleeding brain. Police questioned the father, asking if the baby fell, was dropped, was shaken. They kept asking how it had happened over and over. The daughter was interviewed. The wife was pressured to terminate life support and donate the organs. She was told by police she would never see her 10-year-old daughter again unless she cooperated.
The father was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus ten years.
Supporters started a web site and garnered a good deal of public support and assistance from several medical experts. Years later, it was discovered that the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy and said the baby had died from shaken baby syndrome had recently been barred from doing autopsies, the harshest discipline ever received in his state against a chief medical examiner. It had been shown that a number of autopsies he conducted were botched.
Five years after his conviction, he was granted a new trial. He then pleaded no contest to manslaughter and was sentenced to time served. “I do admit to an amount of culpable negligence in my son’s death,” he said. “I didn’t shake my son. I didn’t hurt him. I didn’t abuse him. But I was negligent. He was premature and I should have done research about vaccinations. I trusted the doctors. I assumed doctors knew what was good for my kid.”
The judge who granted the new trial said, “I don’t know how you can maintain public trust in a system of justice if you let stand a conviction obtained through reliance on an autopsy that is so thoroughly discredited.” He did add that he found no evidence linking the death to a vaccine.
The prosecutor was happy to come away with a conviction. “For, I believe a week, we’ve heard that this child died of a vaccine reaction. In the judge’s ruling in court, he found that there was not credible evidence, that it’s not been accepted by medical science, which leads to one explanation left ... this child was shaken to death.” Prosecutors decided to plea bargain because they could not put the medical examiner back on the stand.
0417: The baby had Down’s Syndrome. According to investigators, half an hour after the baby’s father and another man left the family home to go to a Christmas party, the 3-month-old baby started vomiting repeatedly, and eventually turned blue and fell unconscious. Investigators believe the mother, 30, did nothing for three hours, and even then called her mother rather than paramedics.
An autopsy showed the child died of brain hemorrhaging, shaken baby syndrome.
Charges were not pressed until seven years later, when DSS became concerned about the welfare of a sibling. A detective said the mother made “incriminating” statements during an interview.
She was then charged with first degree murder. The final outcome is not known.
0418: The Korean-born babysitter, 54, was watching an 8-month-old son of another Korean couple. The sitter called the boy’s mother one day to say the child was asleep and would not wake up.
The parents rushed the child, who was convulsing, to the hospital. He was found to have subdural and subarachnoid hematomas, bruises, and bilateral retinal hemorrhages. The diagnosis was shaken baby syndrome.
The sitter denied shaking the baby and told the parents the child had a seizure while he was sleeping.
The first trial was a mistrial because the defense attorney was ill. There were more delays because the defendant’s husband was deployed to Iraq and later because the parents of the child were in Korea. By the time of the trial, eight years had passed.
The handicapped 8-year-old child was brought into the courtroom, reducing the accused sitter to tears and infuriating her lawyer, who said, “They want to shore up a bad case by subjecting a poor child to this.”
The sitter was convicted of first-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child after a month-long trial. She was sentenced to 15 years, reduced to 7 on appeal.
0419: The baby’s uncle, a 20-year-old from Mexico, told police he was the only adult in the house one day when he heard his brother’s baby make “a different kind of cry”. He went to check on the baby and then went to get him a bottle. When he came back, he said, the baby was not breathing and his lips had turned purple.
He then took the baby to another person in the building to get help. That person allegedly told police he was “acting very calm, almost weird calm.”
The baby was taken to a medical clinic and then to a hospital. He was found to have multiple brain hemorrhages, both old and new, and damage to both retinas. There were no bruises or broken bones. Doctors quickly determined it was a “pretty straightforward” case of shaken baby syndrome.
The defendant was questioned by a police officer for an hour and a half. He kept saying, “You did this, didn’t you?” The defendant kept answering, “No, I did not.”
Timing was the issue in the case. The defense blamed the babysitter. “She will testify that she has no patience with children,” said the public defender, “and that the child was so loud that she couldn’t hear the TV.”
The defendant maintained his innocence throughout, but may have implicated himself on the stand. When asked what happened when he found the baby not breathing, he said he held him up in the air and yelled his name. The prosecutor said that at that moment, “the baby was two shakes away from death.” Prosecutors insisted that the injuries occurred at 4:00, not before.
The jury deliberated for a little more than three hours before finding the defendant guilty of first and third degree assault. Because of his lack of criminal history, he was sentenced to 81 months.
An appeal was unsuccessful.
0420: The baby’s father, 21, told police he had changed his 3-month-old daughter’s diaper after she woke from a nap and left her alone in the crib for a few minutes. She had stopped breathing by the time he returned.
Doctors found a brain injury and several broken ribs. They said the injuries were not accidental and “could only be consistent with shaken baby syndrome and inflicted trauma.” One doctor said the child could not have smiled or looked “remotely normal” after this type of injury.
The father was arrested and charged with first degree assault. Bail was $150,000.
The baby’s mother said her daughter had developed symptoms of vomiting and fever two months earlier. Doctors had been unable to determine the cause. One believed it was a viral incident.
After plea bargaining, the father was sentenced to 5 years, all suspended, for unlawful wounding and 10 years with 7 years suspended, for child abuse.
The baby recovered.
0421: The mother’s boyfriend, 29, was accused of murder in the death of his girlfriend’s 19-month-old daughter. A coroner ruled the cause of death was shaken baby syndrome.
A day after the mother was found not guilty of child endangering, he pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12.5 to 17.5 years, more than twice the amount of time required by the guidelines. A complaint was filed in the United States District Court about the wrongful use of a nonexistent section of the Parole Board Manual compounded with a check in a box for “no upward departure” to create an appearance of compliance with the sentencing guidelines.
0422: Because of the state’s concerns about substance abuse in the children’s home, a cousin took in a boy and his two younger sisters. They seemed model candidates for foster parenting, said a CPS spokeswoman. “They presented excellently. Highly educated, no criminal backgrounds. Everything was just perfectly presented.” Numerous background checks were conducted. “This was not a decision that was made haphazardly. This family appeared to be an ideal family.”
After the 4-year-old boy was taken to the hospital, both of his siblings were removed from the home as well as the couple’s own two children. CPS sought and received court permission to make medical decisions for the boy, then approved removal of life support. They boy died of brain swelling a day later.
The guardians said he had fallen while running laps around their home as a punishment for lying, but doctors expressed suspicions. There were no external injuries. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, shaken baby syndrome, and both parents were arrested and released on a bond of $50,000 each. Later, the husband was indicted on a manslaughter charge and the wife on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.
The husband pleaded no contest in a plea bargain and was sentenced to ten years probation and deferred adjudication. The charge will be removed from his record after that time.
0423: Authorities responded to a call for a choking baby and found a 7-month-old girl unresponsive. A hospital examination revealed dilated pupils, retinal hemorrhaging and bruising on the left side of her head. The child was not breathing independently. Doctors suspected shaken baby syndrome.
More than a year later, the mother’s boyfriend was charged with first degree murder. He had been alone with the child for about 30 minutes that day. Forensic tests, which took several months to complete, determined the injuries were incurred during those 30 minutes. Bail was denied.
During police questioning, the 27-year-old suspect passed out and had to be taken to the hospital.
The case ended with a conviction.
0424: The baby’s father, 21, found his month-old son unresponsive in his crib. The baby was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The following day, the death was ruled a homicide, consistent with shaken baby syndrome. The father was charged with first degree murder and placed on a no bond status.
The father originally told police the baby had thrown up after he fed him and his face had changed colors. Later, under questioning, he said he shook and hit his son. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of child abuse and was sentenced to 10 years, with all but 18 months suspended, plus five years of probation.
The defendant had an IQ of 69.
0425: The babysitter, 42, called police to her home, saying an 11-month-old boy was having difficult breathing and was foaming at the mouth. She told police she dropped the baby while changing his diaper. He was taken to a hospital where he died two days later. He had brain swelling, renal failure and retinal damage.
The sitter, a mother of three, had run an in-home day care for 18 years, caring for more than 100 children during that time. There had been no previous incidents or problems. She was charged with second degree assault. Charges were expected to be upgraded after the baby died.
After initial questioning, she was released and left town on a previously-planned trip to see her daughter and first grandchild, who had just been born, in the hospital. Despite an arrangement made for her to turn herself in, she was arrested at the hospital, interrogated for 8-9 hours, charged with second degree murder and held on $100,000 bail.
Parents of another child who had been deemed shaken by an "unknown perpetrator" fifteen years earlier had been referred to a doctor who did a urine test and discovered their son had a rare genetic disorder, glutaric aciduria. The doctor said, "It may occur in one out of 10,000 or one out of 20,000 live births so a lot of physicians go their entire careers without ever having seen a case." He added, "The normal activities of a toddler would cause enough shaking of the brain to cause bleeding that was seen in this case."
When the 15-year-old's mother saw a news article about this case, they called the suspect's attorney, who consulted the same doctor. A test proved the baby who died had the same genetic disorder, glutaric aciduria. The prosecution expert agreed that the condition explained the baby's symptoms and as a result, prosecutors dropped the murder charges.
0426: Prosecutors alleged that the defendant had shaken a child, aged 2 years 7 months, causing “severe brain damage.” Prosecutors said the assault took place within a 45 minute period of time during which the defendant was alone with the child.
The defendant waived his right to a trial and opted for a bench trial. When the prosecution rested its case, the judge said he found insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for either felony assault or endangering children and dismissed the case. The defendant was released with all costs assessed to the state.
0427: The 4-month-old boy was taken to the hospital on a Thursday because of seizures and bleeding. The mother said the baby had been sleeping on her boyfriend’s chest when he “awoke, arched his back, and became really stiff.” She said she didn’t know how the baby might have been injured.
Doctors suspected abuse and police questioned the mother’s boyfriend, 22. “The only explanation for the injury would be non-accidental trauma,” said one physician.
In a tearful admission, the man told investigators that he became frustrated the day before, a Wednesday, because the child would not stop crying. He said he held the child by the shoulders and shook him for about one minute. He said the child “looked surprised” but stopped crying.
He also admitted to shaking the boy about three days earlier after an argument with his mother.
The child sustained a fractured, skull, a fractured shoulder, damage to brain tissue and bilateral retinal hemorrhages.
The defendant was charged with first degree assault and bail was set at $100,000. The baby was released from the hospital. It was not known whether he had sustained permanent injuries.
The outcome of this case is unknown.
0428: The 11-month-old baby had been born with Adams-Oliver Scalp Defect Syndrome and a bad heart. She had an artificial eye. Her arms were not fully developed. The left arm stopped at the elbow and there were only three fingers on the right arm. She was quite sick for the six weeks prior to her collapse. On her admission to the hospital, doctors diagnosed dehydration.
The stepfather had watched her alone for a few hours on April 2. When the mother returned home, the baby was asleep. The next morning, she tried to wake the baby but she kept closing her eyes and would not wake up. She was listless and weak. She was taken to the hospital. The mother assumed she was dehydrated. The week before, she had vomited and had diarrhea.
She went to a local hospital April 3-14, then to Children’s Hospital April 14-May 8. On August 18, she went to the local hospital for an operation. She slipped into a coma during the operation and died August 19.
The coroner stated his opinion that the girl had sustained a traumatic brain injury immediately prior to her first visit to the hospital, months earlier. No evidence of blunt force trauma was found.
The stepfather was arrested more than four months prior to the baby’s death, after retinal hemorrhages were found. Physician statements at the trial conflicted. One doctor said the child’s acute hemorrhages had been sustained 24-72 hours prior to her acute deterioration. One doctor said he diagnosed shaken baby syndrome because there was no external evidence of trauma. Another diagnosed Tin Ear Syndrome.
An older daughter had spoken on video tape. At first she denied knowing how the baby was hurt. Later she shook a baby doll and said, “My dad was saying, ‘Don’t throw up on dad.’” The girl made other incriminating statements as well. Later on the tape, she said, “My mom told me what to say or she would hit me and feed me dog food.” The tape was edited so only the incriminating statements were included at the trial. The prosecutor made an emotional plea to the jury in her closing statement that left jurors in tears.
The defendant was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. An appeal was unsuccessful. He continues to deny he hurt the child.
The father, 38, allegedly grabbed his month-old son and shook him, then called 911 to report the infant, a twin, had shallow breathing and was unresponsive.
CT and MRI scans showed a subdural hemorrhage and brain contusions. The baby had severe seizures for days after being admitted to the hospital.
Nearly a year later, the father walked into the police station and delivered a handwritten letter, in which he allegedly confessed to shaking the boy. His twin sons were removed from the home and placed in foster care.
He pleaded no contest to aggravated assault. In a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to waive the minimum five-year sentence. He later withdrew from the deal. He was scheduled for trial but was granted a continuance in order to obtain an expert witness. When the case finally went to a jury, it was declared a mistrial because the defendant was found to be drunk during the proceedings. He was convicted in a second trial.
His sentencing was delayed, because defense attorneys requested additional time to review a psychiatrist’s report about his mental health.
He was later sentenced to 6-15 years followed by five years probation. He was not fined. He maintained his innocence at the sentencing hearing, saying he rejected a plea bargain because he is innocent. “I lost my family, my wife and freedom,” he said. He plans to appeal.
0430: The father of a 17-month-old girl was accused of grabbing her head and shaking her for almost a minute while attempting to put her in a stroller. He stopped when the girl’s mother slapped him on the head.
The mother called police and had the child evaluated. No injuries were found.
The father was charged with second degree assault, a felony. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of simple assault and was sentenced to 90 days plus a year’s probation, anger management counseling and parenting classes.
The prosecutor said it would be difficult to prove the felony case beyond a reasonable doubt.
0431: The baby was born three months premature had had been in his parents’ care for just 18 days before he was returned to the hospital in cardiac arrest. He died 17 days later.
The parents told authorities that the baby had been fed and burped before being placed in a basket. The mother saw he was bleeding from the nose and immediately called emergency help.
Doctors found bleeding in the brain and eyes, which they said was consistent with being shaken. There were no apparent injuries. They said the force involved was similar to a high-speed road accident or a fall from a first floor window.
Prosecutors said one of the 4-month-old baby’s parents must have killed him but they were unable to establish which one. The baby died just before a legal loophole, enabling them to say nothing or blame each other, was closed. A new law would have allowed both to be charged with familial homicide.
After a 14-month investigation, during which officers bugged the flat, both parents were charged with perverting justice. The defense argued that the fact nothing turned up from the listening device proved the couple’s innocence. The prosecutor said, “it is significant that their accounts are almost identical, yet they are accounts which are totally refuted by the medical evidence.” A jury convicted them, agreeing that the injuries could not have occurred except by shaking. The judge said, “You have been convicted on overwhelming evidence of not having told the full story when you were interviewed by the police.”
After conviction, the mother said she had “lightly shaken” the baby, but only after he became ill.
0432: A 4-year-old girl’s stepmother told officials she had fallen down some stairs at the family home, losing consciousness and never recovering. The coroner first called the death accidental, then, under pressure from other doctors, revised his opinion. He told the jury, “Children don’t fall short distances and hurt themselves lethally.” It was suggested by the defense that she may have climbed on top of the railing and fallen. The coroner said it didn’t matter. “No fall is going to make head injuries on both sides of her brain. The distance doesn’t matter.”
He did admit that 4-year-old children are not normally diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome. The woman’s ex-husband worked six years to have her charged. His children were still living with her.
She was convicted and served two years of a thirteen year sentence before her conviction was overturned on appeal. The word “recklessly” had not been included as required on the original indictment.
The case was retried. Experts for the defense presented opinions and evidence that children can fall and die. The jury acquitted. One juror said he felt the prosecution’s case lacked any evidence that the defendant had anything to do with the girl’s death. It had been more than ten years since the accusation had been made.
0433: After a newborn boy was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, the father was charged with two counts of aggravated assault as well as assault. The baby recovered.
Nearly five years after the alleged incident, the father, then 28, pleaded guilty to the one assault charge in exchange for the prosecutor’s recommendation of four years in prison with two suspended. The judge said that was not an adequate sentence and proposed double what the state had recommended. The plea was then withdrawn.
Both parents were in the house at the time of the alleged incident. One witness said she had talked with the defendant while he was at the hospital with the baby. The mother was yelling in the background, “You’re going to have to take the blame for this.”
Witnesses said they had never seen the father lose his temper. One said, “He is a role model.” A private investigator interviewed people who said the father was calm and the mother was volatile.
The defense attorney suggested the baby could have been injured by someone else or might have suffered infantile seizures, which the defendant had suffered as a child.
A judge granted a motion to provide funds ($1,800) for four hours of work by a medical expert.
A year after the plea bargain was withdrawn, a hearing was scheduled for the defendant to withdraw his not guilty plea. At the time, the child was in kindergarten and doing very well.
At trial, the father was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
0434: The father, 20, was watching his month-old son while his then-girlfriend went to a hospital appointment. He told the jury he was playing on the computer with the baby on the bed beside him when his son suddenly went blue and floppy after screaming and coughing. The child was rushed to the hospital where he died two days later.
A doctor called by the defense diagnosed Bordetella Pertussis or whooping cough. He said that would explain the earlier coughing and wheezing, bleeding from the nose and the pinpoint hemorrhages on his face.
The jury acquitted.
The judge told prosecutors and CPS that where such difficult medical issues arose, it might be helpful if a totally independent overview was taken as soon as possible.
0435: The father, 21, was watching his 7-week-old daughter while the mother was out. He threw her into the crib in frustration. The baby’s head hit the rail. He checked her head for a bruise and found none. He laid her in the crib. When the mother returned and checked on the child, she was breathing. When she checked later, she was not.
The infant was taken to a hospital where she died.
A jury convicted the father of second degree murder and he was sentenced to life. The father was severely depressed at the time. He suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and had led a very difficult life. After his arrest, he allegedly confessed to a fellow inmate that he had fatally injured his baby. That prisoner was a key witness at the trial.
0436: The 3-month boy was one of twins. The father had gone into the room because the baby was crying. The prosecution said he then shook him violently. The defense said he shook him in a gentle “wake up, wake up” fashion. The baby died in the hospital four days later.
The father was arrested and charged with assault on a child causing death. The other twin was removed from the home and placed with grandparents. Bail was set at $500,000 but was later reduced to $100,000.
The autopsy report was not expected for several months. The defense attorney said that prior to birth, the infant had bleeding in his brain and there may have been brain swelling prior to the alleged incident.
Numerous extended family members and friends attended the hearings.
The case ended with a plea bargain and sentence of 10 years.
0437: The defendant, 24, and his wife were babysitting their 2-year-old godson. Emergency workers were called when the boy was found in bed not breathing. He was revived but died two days later in the hospital. He had bleeding in his brain and eyes.
A year later, the defendant was charged with first degree murder. Bond was set at $100,000.
“It took the medical examiner’s office several months to conduct tests to determine the time of the fatal injury,” said the Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
Nearly three years after the incident, the defendant was acquitted.
0438: The mother’s friend, 18, had been watching the 6-month-old baby girl on a Saturday. When she began to cry, he “picked her up under the arms and raised her to his eye level and shook her for two to three seconds while yelling her name and instructing her to stop,” said a police officer who interviewed him.
Shortly thereafter, the infant stopped breathing. He administered CPR and revived her. Two hours later, the baby had breathing problems again. He called the mother and she came home. The child appeared fine at the time, and no medical treatment was sought.
Seven hours after the alleged shaking, the baby’s condition deteriorated again and 911 was called. The baby had “bleeding on the brain” that doctors said were “suspect and consistent with shaken baby syndrome.”
The defendant was considered a flight risk because he had been absent without leave from the Army for several months and was due to go to jail the following day for a misdemeanor alcohol charge. Bond was set at $250,000, cash only.
Six months after the baby’s death, the defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and felony child abuse. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, 7 less than the maximum allowed by law. He was remorseful. “Whatever sentence you give me is just,” he said. “I deserve it every day ten-fold. I will carry this burden until the day I die. Maybe, someday, I will become a good man.”
A bill was introduced to the state legislature in the baby’s name requiring a mandatory 15 years in prison for shaking a child.
0439: The 3-month-old girl’s parents had been frustrated with the baby, who cried often. Six weeks before she collapsed, according to a witness, the father had yelled at her to “shut the hell up.” No one had ever seen him hurt the baby.
On the day of the baby’s collapse, the mother said she had been “fussy” and had cried a lot. When the parents put the baby in the bathtub, she became “foggy and pale.” Her hands became stiff and her eyes closed.
When questioned, the father said the baby had rolled off the couch three or four days earlier.
An ophthalmologist discovered retinal hemorrhages and diagnosed shaken baby syndrome. “If the infant had been in a car crash, or fallen from eight feet onto concrete, it’s unlikely one would see the same type of damage,” she said. A pediatrician said a rib fracture was discovered that had been sustained at least a week earlier. The seizures, she said, would have come soon after the baby was injured.
The mother had been suffering from post-partum depression. The father was charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and unlawfully causing bodily harm.
The trial began but was recessed until the mother could testify. In the end, the defendant was convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and given a two-year conditional sentence. He must abide by a 7:00 p.m. curfew and complete 240 hours of community service.
The baby’s mother called it a slap on the wrist.
0440: The babysitter, a 28-year-old teacher’s aide, was watching the children of a friend while she was at work. He called the Sheriff’s Office saying the 16-month-old girl had fallen. Later, under questioning, he admitted to shaking her because she wouldn’t stop crying.
“He was not somebody who would snap and just lose it,” said a sister. “That’s not his style.” The autistic student he worked with loved him. He had passed a criminal background check to get the job. “It just shocked me,” said the friend. “He never hit me or gave me any reason to fear about anything.”
The news was a shock to employees who worked at the school where he was employed. His job was to help and protect an autistic student. "He was awesome with the student," said a school district spokesman.
He plea bargained and was sentenced to 33 years.
0441: The parents of an 8-week-old girl rushed her to the hospital after she stopped breathing. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The medical examiner's office determined that the cause of death was abuse. Police learned that the baby's 26-year-old father had been alone with the her prior to when she began to have difficulty breathing. They arrested him and charged him with aggravated manslaughter. The baby's mother was surprised at the charges, saying he loved their daughter and thought the police investigation was over.
At trial two years later, the jury acquitted.
0442: The baby boy was sent to foster care after he was born with cocaine in his system. When he was 14 months old, the foster mother and certified nurse’s aide, 42, was called to pick him up early from day care for the third day in a row because he was vomiting and had diarrhea. 45 minutes later, she called 911 because he was virtually lifeless.
Doctors discovered subdural and retinal hemorrhaging. The foster mother was charged with aggravated child abuse. The baby survived for two more years on life support. The charge was upgraded to first degree felony murder, which carries a life sentence.
The defense called several nationally known medical experts to question the diagnosis of shaken baby. The symptoms, they said, did not occur from the actions of the defendant. They did not present an alternate theory and they were not required to do so. The prosecutor emphasized how much they were paid and said, “The defendant was alone with the victim for the last 29 minutes of his life. The fact is, when he got to the hospital, he was nonresponsive, he was in cardiac arrest and he had a subdural hemorrhage. She killed him.”
After about two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of “not guilty”.
She tearfully hugged her attorney. Her husband bowed his head and wept. Fighting this charge for the past four years, he said, "was the toughest thing I've ever had to do."
0443: The baby boy, 14 months, was a twin. His aunt, who was also his foster mother, 41, was charged with felony child abuse and involuntary manslaughter after she said he fell from his crib.
The baby’s father was in jail for domestic assault and the mother lost custody after she was accused of neglect for leaving her children out in the porch in the rain. The aunt and her husband were already licensed as foster care providers and were willing to take the boy in.
Doctors disagreed about when the baby was abused. The medical examiner said it could have been several hours prior to his collapse. Another doctor said it could have happened anytime within the previous 24 hours. Five people had cared for the child during that time and any of them could have hurt the child.
Prosecutors refused to go to court and dropped the charges. “With the new time frame, there were too many people who had access to the child, and we just couldn’t prove who inflicted the injury,” one said.
“The science is a bit inexact,” said the chief medical examiner for the state. “The models and means we have to pinpoint when a child is injured are imperfect, and often we can’t be specific enough for prosecutors to move ahead.”
The sitter had cared for the baby and her older sister since birth and the parents had great regard for her. She had installed 5 web cams in the house so they could log on from work and see what was happening with the kids any time they wished.
About an hour before the baby was hurt, the father checked the web cam. Everything was calm. The sitter’s husband left 30 minutes later. He said everything was normal when he left.
The sitter said she fell down the stairs with the baby in her arms and the baby hit her head. Police called the parents saying the sitter’s statements didn’t match the injuries observed. They said there was retinal hemorrhaging behind one eye, a subdural hemorrhage, a rib fracture, and two skull fractures. They said the fall could not account for the injuries and that the baby must have been shaken and hit against something.
The police did not find any bruising on the child, cracked walls, or anything that indicated a child was thrown against it. They also did not find blood or DNA in inappropriate places, like hair matted to a wall.
The sitter passed a polygraph from an FBI recommended polygrapher. She underwent an intensive psychological exam from a world renowned infanticide expert. A child injury expert CPS and the DA use to prosecute people said the sitter’s description of events matched the child’s injuries. Nevertheless, the police suspected her of first degree murder. The case was later submitted to the DA’s office as first degree injury to a child.
The parents were appalled that during the “crime scene” investigation for their baby’s alleged “murder” at the sitter’s house, the police played tag in the yard, laughed and joked. Police also twisted the sitter’s words, according to the parents.
Police tried to enlist the support of the parents against the sitter. “You’re trying to convince us that someone who never even raised her voice with our kids hit the baby not only once but twice?” asked the father incredulously.
Their church welcomed the sitter and supplied her family with meals and prayers, as well as helped pay her bills. With help from their church family, the parents raised over $30,000 to help the sitter with her legal expenses, which were in excess of $100,000.
The father said, “Many people would misconstrue this: We don’t believe she [the sitter] is guilty, but if she is, where should she be BUT church? We would never dishonor our daughter by lying about what we thought happened. We would never try to cover up the truth. At the same time, one of the things that would be a huge disservice to [our baby’s] memory would be if an innocent person was convicted.”
The father, who has a higher education degree and worked at a university, did a great deal of research on SBS and child head injuries. His independent research concluded that his child’s injuries did not match the police’s theory of events.
The father also had an opportunity to talk extensively to the defense medical expert (who usually testifies for the prosecution.) The medical expert explained how and why the child’s injuries were consistent with the sitter’s story and why the evidence did not support the police theory. The medical expert said he had also consulted with the world’s best authorities of child head injuries and they all agreed with his findings. The medical expert and didn’t know how anyone could dispute his conclusions.
The defense medical expert as well as the pregnant mother of the baby testified for the Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury refused to indict and the case was dropped.
I would very much appreciate you contacting me if you are involved in a case. I may or may not have seen news coverage about it. Only fatal cases are well covered in the news, and even then the coverage may be incomplete.
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony