This page tells some of the stories that have inspired our efforts, which are explained on the home page of this site.
Formal exonerations are rare, but some defendants have successfully fought the charges or appealed their convictions.
Aaron Adams’ girl friend and her father were both home the day his girl friend’s daughter rolled off the bed, suffering a skull fracture and a brain bleed. Despite their support, Adams spent a year in jail and away from his own daughters before a jury found him not guilty of shaking and battering the little girl. Reporter Janet St. James covered his story as part of her on-going series on abuse diagnoses based on bone findings.
Kristian Aspelin told emergency responders that he had slipped on the kitchen floor while holding his infant son Johan, but doctors rejected that story, concluding instead that the boy had been shaken and slammed to death. By selling their house, cleaning out their savings, and borrowing from friends and family, Kristian and his wife were able to assemble a collection of medical and bioengineering reports that confirmed the fall Aspelin described could account for Johan’s injuries, convincing the county to drop the charges. You can read the NPR coverage here and an in-depth feature treatment here.
Because of her sister’s health problems, Julie Baumer took custody of her nephew when he was a week old, the day he was released from the neo-natal intensive care unit. At the age of five weeks, he started vomiting and refusing to eat, so she took him to the emergency room—where imaging of his head convinced the doctors she had shaken the boy into permanent brain damage. She served five years in prison before the Michigan Innocence Clinic won an appeal with a new medical opinion that a blood clot had caused the child’s collapse. A public radio station in North Carolina has posted this interview with Ms. Baumer.
When one of their toddler sons tripped and fell on their infant daughter, Paul and Zabeth Bayne rushed the girl to the hospital because she wasn’t breathing properly. She seemed to recover in the emergency room, however, and the family was sent home. Over the next three weeks, they sought medical advice from a number of different doctors, as the baby had recurring vomiting and occasionally a “glassy stare.” Finally, medical imaging revealed a subdural hematoma, and doctors diagnosed her as a shaken baby. Social services put all three children into foster care while Paul and Zabeth fought the accusations. Their next child was taken from them at birth. The Baynes kept fighting, and four years after their nightmare began, the state dropped all charges, convinced by reports from a series of outside doctors who thought the incident the parents had described could explain their daughter’s findings. You can read the family’s story here.
After 2-1/2 years of accusations and court postponements, Patricia Brant was found not guilty of all charges by a Charleston jury in July of 2016. When she dialed 911 in the winter of 2014, she said the 22-month-old her care had apparently fallen while trying to climb out of a playpen, but child abuse experts rejected her story, claiming that short falls are never fatal. At trial, though, the arguments of defense experts, including a biomedical engineer who conducted tests of the presumed scenario, convinced jurors that the fall she reported could have produced the findings. Patricia has written this memoir of her experiences.
Jennifer Del Prete was a child care worker with years of experience and an excellent reputation in her community when a 3-month-old she was watching collapsed. Like many children diagnosed as shaken, the little girl had no broken bones, no bruises or red marks, and prior bleeding in the lining of her brain, already weeks old the day Jennifer called 911 for help with an unconscious baby. Jennifer served nearly 10 years in prison before her conviction was vacated in 2014, in a decision that raised doubts about the validity of shaken baby syndrome as a diagnosis. You can read the news coverage here, and the decision itself here.
Audrey Edmunds was clearly upset the morning she dialed 911 for help with a baby in distress. Edmunds was afraid she had caused the baby to choke by leaving her alone with a bottle—but doctors said the baby had been shaken to death, by the last caretaker to see her fully conscious. Audrey’s conviction was overturned in 2008, after the Wisconsin Innocence Project successfully argued that medical thinking about shaken baby syndrome had changed since her 1996 trial. You can read Audrey’s story here. She has co-authored a book about her experiences, It Happened to Audrey.
Lance Finner and his wife took their 3-week old daughter to the hospital just to be sure everything was all right: Lance said he had fallen asleep with the girl on his lap, and she had tumbled to the floor. When doctors found multiple fractures, they charged Lance with abuse of the baby and denied him any contact with her. A judge ultimately quashed the charges after physicians hired by the defense established that the little girl was deficient in vitamin D, a condition that made her bones weak.
When Tammy Fourman and her husband were accused of shaking their infant son into permanent brain damage, social services put both the boy and his 3-year-old sister into foster care. Because the parents were together when the seizures started, the authorities were not sure which parent to charge, and neither was arrested. When Tammy had another baby, though, social services removed the child within hours of his birth. Then Tammy became pregnant again and fled to another state—where different doctors correctly diagnosed the infant Logan as a victim of Menkes disease, which causes fragile blood vessels and bones. Tests on preserved blood from her first son confirmed that he had shared the trait, but by that time her older children had been adopted by other families, and she was forbidden to even attempt contact. You can read Tammy’s story here.
Andrew Huber brought his 3-month-old daughter Kenley to the emergency room after hearing her hip pop during a routine diaper change. The skeletal survey revealed multiple fractures at varying stages of healing, and police arrested Andrew on felony child abuse charges. His wife Bria, convinced of his innocence, launched a mission to exonerate her husband and find the cause of their baby’s fractures. Bria and Kenley were eventually diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which, combined with Vitamin D deficiency in utero, had caused Kenley’s injuries. The charges were dropped after 15 months of emotional and financial hardship for the family. Bria is now a founding member of Fractured Families, a group of parents dedicated to helping families in a similar position. Reporter Janet St. James at WFAA in Dallas produced this report about the surge of families who contacted her with similar stories after seeing her initial report on the Hubers. Bria’s activism has received ongoing news coverage.
Kathy Hyatt reported that the infant she was watching rolled off the couch. The child suffered no permanent injuries, but the doctors concluded that bleeding in the lining of her brain proved abuse. The jury took half an hour to find the babysitter innocent. Kathy’s story is one of several featured in the important and fascinating film The Syndrome.
When Addison Jackson was only seven weeks old, her father tripped in the middle of the night while carrying her. Although she was fine neurologically, she had suffered a skull fracture, and imaging at Boston Children’s Hospital revealed rib abnormalities diagnosed as fractures. When doctors found fractures in her twin brother as well, their father was charged with felony child abuse and the children were removed from the home. Only because their mother Christine Jackson kept pushing for answers, the twins were ultimately diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency related to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The family was reunited and the charges were dropped. Christina is now a founding member of Fractured Families, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other wrongly accused families.
Kelly Kline, who once ran a day care in her home, says she dialed 911 after she checked on a napping child and found her unresponsive. Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital, however, said the little girl had been shaken into a coma, dismissing the relevance of a skull fracture that she had received in an accidental fall at home a week earlier. Unconvinced, the jury found Kline innocent. Her case was featured in the exposé of shaken baby syndrome theory in The Washington Post.
Alejandro Mendez spent more than two years in the county jail before a pediatric geneticist convinced authorities that his son had died of a Vitamin K deficiency.
In December of 2015, Marine Sgt. Aaron Rasheed and his wife rushed their youngest child to the hospital with sudden, terrifying seizures. The brain findings convinced doctors the child had been shaken, and CPS removed all three children. Aaron Rasheed started researching shaken baby syndrome and immediately discovered the controversy. He started organizing a local showing of “The Syndrome,” a documentary that questions shaken baby theory, while he was still facing child abuse charges. By the time of the showing in March of 2016, at a regional library in Maryland, doctors had found a non-abusive explanation for the boy’s seizures and a judge had ordered the charges dropped. Rasheed continues to spread the word about false accusations of infant shaking, organizing more showings of “The Syndrome” in Maryland and neighboring states.
In April of 2014, Cynthia Ross and her husband Brandon brought their 2 month old son, Ryder, to his pediatrician with concerns over his slightly swollen ankle. A series of x-rays revealed multiple fractures in various stages of healing throughout Ryder’s little body. Both Ryder and his big sister Rozalynn were placed in the home of their maternal grandparents and their time with their parents reduced to several hours of supervised visitation each week. Brandon Ross was later arrested and charged with multiple felonies in relation to Ryder’s injuries. Ryder was later diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Metabolic Bone Disease. After 18 months of fighting to collect records and have expert reports accepted by the courts, the Ross family was reunited in November of 2015. Cynthia is now a founding member of Fractured Families, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other wrongly accused families.
A jury found child care provider Salli Schultz not guilty of second-degree murder, after defense experts testified at her trial that the bleeding in the child’s brain lining had resulted from a blood clot, not from a violent shaking. She is still paying off legal expenses and is barred from working in child care, but she is grateful at the outcome.
The Staples-Graham Family
Ashlie Marie Graham took her baby to the doctor because he was favoring one arm over the other. Within days, CPS removed Karson from his home due to multiple fractures. When Ashlie questioned the diagnosis, the child abuse pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin told her there was “no way” her son had a bone disorder. Ashlie and her husband sought out opinions from two pediatric radiologists, who looked at the x-rays and identified the bone findings as rickets. Ashley herself tested extremely deficient in vitamin D, and after months on formula, Karson’s levels were still barely adequate. The family celebrated his first birthday at home.
Quentin Stone first brought his son to the hospital just to be sure there was no problem: He said 2-month-old Sam had rolled off a bed. Sam showed no symptoms that day and was sent home, but his parents brought him back several times over the following weeks for continued vomiting and “breath holding.” When Sam finally collapsed a month after the initial visit, doctors diagnosed him as the victim of a violent shaking, which they said must have occurred immediately before he stopped breathing. At trial, the jury believed the defense experts, who pointed to the clear evidence in the medical records of worsening symptoms after the reported fall. You can read the story here.
When defense experts examined Matthew Thomas’s medical records, they pointed out that the infant had arrived at the hospital with a sepsis infection, but that discovery came too late for the child’s father, Adrian Thomas. Doctors at a second hospital had already told the police that the boy had been murdered, and detectives already had what they considered a confession. The interrogation tapes became the backbone of the riveting film Scenes of a Crime, a must-see for anyone interested in false confessions or misdiagnosis of child abuse. The film triggered a successful appeal and Thomas was found not guilty in a second trial, in which the coerced confession was not allowed into evidence.
When their younger son suffered a seizure as an infant, Heather Toomey and her husband rushed him to the hospital—where doctors concluded from blood in the boy’s brain lining that his parents had shaken him. Through tremendous personal focus and the support of extended family, Heather managed to keep her sons with relatives instead of in the foster system, while she and her husband fought to learn the real reason for their son’s medical issues. Five years later he was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder. You can read about the family’s ordeal in Heather’s book.
Concerned that one of their twin infants was not moving one of her legs, Rana and Chad Tyson took her to their pediatrician, who sent them to the local children’s hospital for x-rays. When doctors saw a possible leg fracture, they ordered x-rays on all three of the family’s daughters and discovered multiple fractures around the knees and ankles of the 4-week-old babies. Doctors at the children’s hospital were sure the fractures were due to abuse. The family was separated for five months, while the parents and their pediatrician kept looking for the real cause. The girls were eventually diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency rickets and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Rana is now a founding member of Fractured Families, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other wrongly accused families.
Russ Van Vleck
Even as Russ Van Vleck dialed 911, he was already trying to resuscitate his 5-week-old son Colin, who he said had suddenly stopped breathing while lying next to him on the couch. The dispatcher’s instructions for reviving an infant were different from the adult technique he’d learned in National Guard training, he says, and he blamed himself for wasting precious time by not doing it right. At the hospital, though, doctors concluded from bleeding in Colin’s brain lining that the boy had been shaken to death, even though he had no bruises, grip marks, or fractures, and even though he’d been born with prematurely fused skull plates, which had complicated his delivery and left him vulnerable to increased intracranial pressure. When defense doctors later found evidence of an old brain injury in the preserved tissues, probably dating back to birth, the state pathologist amended the autopsy report but the prosecutor did not step back from the charges. More than two years after losing his son, Russ was found not guilty by a jury. You can read a follow-up news story about the case here.
In January of 2015, Rebecca and Anthony Wanosik took their infant daughter Zeydn to their pediatrician because they could feel her ribs “popping and cracking.” The doctor dismissed their reports, but a couple of weeks later, when Rebecca noticed the child was not using her right arm, she took her back in immediately. This time, x-rays revealed multiple fractures, and all five of the Wanosik children were put into “protective custody” and prohibited from any contact with their parents. Even though both Rebecca and Anthony were diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Rebecca with a severe vitamin D deficiency, the state of Missouri pressed abuse charges against Anthony and kept the Wanosik’s from their children for 9 months, while the Wanosiks fought for testing of their children. Eventually Zaydn was also diagnosed with Ehers-Danlos and vitamin D deficiency rickets. NBC News covered their story several months before the family was reunited in September of 2016. Rana is now a founding member of Fractured Families, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other wrongly accused families.
In 2005, child care provider Melonie Ware was sentenced to life in prison for the presumed shaking death of a 9-month-old she was watching. She won an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel. A second trial resulted in an innocent verdict, when new defense experts testified that the boy had died from sickle cell anemia, not a violent shaking. You can read about her case in the National Registry of Exonerations.
Mary Weaver served three years in prison for the presumed shaking death of an infant she had been watching for less than an hour. Her conviction was overturned when new witnesses came forward to report that the little girl had been knocked unconscious in a fall before Mary picked her up that day. You can read a summary of Mary’s story at the National Registry of Exonerations. Her case is now the subject of a book, Edges of Truth.
Because Jacob Weidner moved during a CT scan of his head, the images showed what looked to doctors at Children’s Hospital of Illinois like a skull fracture, making his parents the target of a child abuse investigation that derailed the search for the true cause of his symptoms. Only because his parents took the images to other doctors did they learn that the supposed skull fracture was an artifact. Those doctors also diagnosed Jacob with a rare kidney disorder. You can read the Weidners’ story here.
Steven Witt had suffered a lifetime of medical problems in his short five months—in fact, he was on medication for an unidentified seizure disorder the day his parents rushed him to the emergency room after his final, fatal collapse. He showed no signs of battering, but the pattern of bleeding and swelling inside the boy’s head convinced doctors Steven had been shaken, and his father Drayton Witt spent a decade in prison before he was freed in 2012 by the Arizona Justice Project. You can read Drayton’s story here.
Waiting for Justice
Far more of the wrongfully accused remain in prison, or have simply served their time and are trying to rebuild their lives. The stories below are of people whose friends and families believe in their innocence and who have the support of physicians who have examined the medical evidence.
Like so many caretakers accused of abuse, Leo Ackley reported that his girl friend’s daughter Baylee had fallen off a bed, an explanation that is routinely rejected by child abuse physicians. His conviction is now under appeal because his court-appointed attorney did not call even one defense expert to rebut the state’s experts at trial. Leo’s pro bono appeal attorney recently won an order for a new trial, as reported here.
Ally Allen and her partner John had no explanation for fractures found in their 4-month-old son, and so child protective services took him into care. When their second son was born, he, too, was taken from them, and so they are now fighting to regain custody of both boys. They have since submitted medical opinion that their first-born suffered from vitamin-D deficiency rickets, but are still allowed only a few hours of visitation a week with their sons. You can read their story here.
Clayton Allison blamed himself for his daughter’s death: He had left the baby gate open, and she had fallen down the stairs. His wife and community believe him—but the doctors argued that household falls are never fatal, and Clayton was convicted of second degree murder. HIs supporters maintain a web site, blog, and facebook page. For a story about outrageous police conduct around the interrogation of his wife, see this On SBS blog posting.
Child care provider René Bailey reported that the toddler in her care had jumped off a chair and hit her head, but child abuse experts testified at her trial that a short fall could not cause serious injuries to a child. Bailey spent 14 years in prison before pro bono attorneys succeeded in overturning her conviction, based on the argument that medical thinking has changed since her 2001 trial, and that doctors now recognize that a short fall can have serious consequences. The state then refiled charges, and in 2017, Bailey entered an Alford plea that leaves her out of prison on probation for two and a half years.
Single father Jeffrey Baker picked up his daughter from day care and fed her a bottle as soon as they got home. A few minutes later, he says, she made a strange gurgling sound and quit breathing. At the hospital, doctors said Gracelynn had been both shaken and slammed. The child care provider eventually reported that she had accidentally dropped the girl into the sink while bathing her earlier in the day, and hospital records showed that her oxygen levels had dropped catastrophically during the night due to a misplaced breathing tube, but Jeffrey was convicted of murder and is now serving a life sentence. Supporters have started a web site.
A young mother watching her friend’s baby, Amanda Brumfield told emergency responders that the 1-year-old had fallen and hit her head while trying to climb out of a portable crib. Supporters have recently renewed their efforts on Amanda’s behalf.
When his daughter Naomi was 11 weeks old, Joshua Burns told his wife that he had almost dropped her, grabbing her by the face and head before she hit the coffee table. The little girl seemed to be fine that evening, both Joshua and his wife Brenda reported, but the next day she started throwing up and her color seemed wrong. After the little girl spent a week in the hospital diagnosed with a gasgtro-intestinal virus, doctors discovered retinal hemorrhages and bleeding in the lining of the brain. Joshua Burns was convicted of child abuse, and has served his sentence, but their community has rallied behind the Burns family and established the Torn Family Trust to fight for change in the arena.
Tiffani Calise was only 19 years old the evening a toddler she was watching slipped in the bathtub and hit her head. But doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital rejected that explanation, and Tiffani is now serving a sentence of 15 years to life.
Like many infants diagnosed as shaken, Jackson Curtis had a long and complex medical history, including both antibiotics and antifungal medications and a hospitalization for failure to thrive. He was being treated for a recurring sinus infection the day Jason says he checked on his son during a morning nap and found him unresponsive. Although Jackson had no bruises, scratches, red marks, or fractures, doctors said the boy had been shaken to death, and Jason is now serving a life sentence. You can read Jason’s story here.
Michael Giovo Jr. said he had stayed up watching television on Thanksgiving night in 2008, after his girl friend had gone to bed. When he heard 4-month-old Skyler crying, he picked him up from his crib and settled him on the couch while heating a bottle. Michael did not witness the fall, he said, but heard a cry and returned to find Skyler on the floor. He comforted his son, who calmed down and spent that night in bed with his parents. Michael and his girl friend rushed the boy to the hospital the next day, when he started twitching. Skyler had no bruising, no fractures, and no grip marks, but the pattern of bleeding and swelling inside his head convinced the child abuse doctors that he’d been shaken. Giovo is now serving life in prison.
Tommy Goertz was home taking care of the children while recovering from an industrial accident—he was changing diapers and fixing lunch using only his left arm while his right was incapacitated. He called his wife mid-morning to report that the 7-month-old was still cranky, and they’d decided the boy was teething. He seemed to be sleeping when his mother returned home at 1 pm. The couple called 911 two hours later, alarmed at his labored breathing. He died in the hospital, after two days of progressive brain swelling. Careful examination revealed no bruising, no red marks, and no fractures, but he had pneumonia in his lungs and an elevated white blood cell count. Medical records documented a lifetime of respiratory problems, including bronchitis. The jury declined to convict Goertz of murder but found him guilty of child abuse. He is now serving a sentence of 17½ years.
His girl friend had just started a new job, so Rico Green was watching her son Gericho, 13 months old. Because the apartment was hot, he stepped into the bedroom to open the patio door—and when he came out he found Gericho, unconscious a few steps down the staircase that led to the apartment’s entryway. Although Gericho had no body or limb injuries, only the fatal head injury, the doctors and therefore the police rejected Rico’s story. He is now in prison for murder, convicted in a trial that featured no witnesses for the defense.
Megan Griffith says the toddler she was watching fell off a bed while she was in the next room, but doctors said a short fall could not cause serious injury to a child. Megan’s husband and four children have moved in with her parents while she serves her prison time, and while her family works for her release.
Jeffrey Havard has been on death row since 2002, convicted of murdering his girl friend’s 6-month-old daughter. Havard said he was lifting the little girl from the tub after a bath when she slipped from his hands, hitting her head on the toilet as she fell. While the clock ticks toward execution, his supporters are scrambling to convince the State of Mississippi to consider a host of new medical opinions that support Jeffrey’s account of the incident, plus an acknowledgment from the original medical examiner that he would no longer call this case shaken baby syndrome. You can read about Jeffrey’s case here.
One-year-old Devin had been on vacation with his mother’s family for several days. When his maternal grandmother dropped him off with his father afterward, she reported that the boy had fallen a couple of times, hitting his head once, while on their trip, and that his breathing had been “labored” in the car on the way over. Twenty minutes after the drop-off, Devin fell limp and unresponsive, and James Higbee, 24 years old at the time, called for help. At the hospital, doctors concluded that Devin must have been been assaulted just minutes before his collapse, and the prosecutor targeted the last person with the baby. James is now serving a life sentence. His supporters maintain a web site for him here.
Although the medical evidence was ambiguous enough that no one was ever charged in the 2002 death of 3-year-old Ki’Tanna Humphries, the child’s mother Latasha was convicted of failing to seek medical attention for her daughter. She served her 5-year sentence, but when she later had another child, CPS took custody. Latasha continues her campaign to reunite her family, which has included a failed effort to change the cause of death on her daughter’s death certificate and a futile but valiant approach to the National Association of Medical Examiners.
Weeks before Pamela Jacobazzi began babysitting 10-month-old Matthew, the boy’s pediatrician had started looking into reasons for his abnormal hemoglobin readings and chronic infections and fevers. But when he fell unconscious while in Jacobazzi’s care, doctors ignored his known health problems and concluded that his child care provider had shaken him so violently that he ultimately died. She was convicted despite testimony that bleeding under the boy’s skull had started weeks before his collapse. Jacobazzi was released in the spring of 2015, after 16 years in prison.
A well-loved mother and grandmother with decades of child care experience, Suzanne Johnson has been in prison since 1999, serving a sentence of 25 years to life. She says the 6-month-old baby she was watching fell out of her high chair, but doctors insisted a short fall could not have accounted for the girl’s injuries. Suzanne’s case has been taken up by the California Innocence Project, which posted this coverage.
Just three months before his trial, immigrant father Hang Bin Li turned down a plea agreement that would have allowed his immediate release from jail, insisting he did not assault his daughter Annie. Even after his manslaughter conviction, he enjoys the support of his wife, his community, and his former landlady, who shared the house with the family and testified that the Lis were good parents, and that she heard nothing unusual the day Annie collapsed. You can read the pre-trial New York Times coverage here.
On a Spring day in 2015, Sarah Martin was at home with two babies, one of them her own son. She called 911 when the 9-month-old she was watching seemed to choke on the cereal she was feeding him. Although the ER intake notes include the observation “no signs of acute bruising or trauma,” child abuse experts insisted at trial the child had been battered to death. Martin is now serving a life sentence.
Alex Maze was born six weeks early due to pregnancy complications, and he spent his first 13 days of life in the special care nursery. He seemed to be sick a lot—when his parents brought him to the after-hours clinic a few days before his collapse, they were told they were being over-anxious first-time parents. Russell Maze claims he found his son in his crib gasping for air, still a few days short of his due date, but doctors at the hospital said Russell had shaken the boy into fatal brain damage. Russell is serving a life sentence. His most recent appeal has been turned down.
In the spring of 2006, Marsha Mills was watching four young children, two of them her grandchildren, when one of the toddlers fell off the back steps onto a concrete patio. Inexplicably, doctors rejected that explanation and Marsha is now serving a life sentence for murder, while friends and family raise money for another appeal. You can read her story here.
Sean O’Geary has been in prison since 1998 for the death of his girl friend’s 2-year-old daughter Mercedes. Both Sean and his girl friend said they saw Mercedes fall onto the coffee table earlier in the day, while jumping on the couch, and both of them reported hearing a loud thump later that night, after everyone was in bed. It was Sean who went to check on Mercedes, though, and so it was Sean who was convicted of shaking and slamming her to death. Sean’s supporters have a web page here.
Brian Peixoto was upstairs when he heard the call, the little girl screaming that Christopher was throwing up. He says he reached the hallway about the same time as Christopher’s mother, and they found the boy together, apparently seizing at the bottom of the basement stairs. But the doctors didn’t believe that explanation of events, and Brian was convicted. Eighteen years later, his supporters have renewed their efforts on his behalf. You can see their web site here.
Elwood Sadowsky says he dropped his infant daughter during a seizure caused by a medical condition. Doctors concluded that the girl’s injuries could not have resulted from a short fall, however, and Elwood is serving a life sentence for her murder. The child’s mother, who believes Elwood, maintains a web site dedicated to helping the newly accused.
Barbara Schrock’s second daughter was born medically fragile, after a labor induced at 34 weeks because of pregnancy complications. The little girl was never as lively as her older sister, and Barbara was worried that she seemed unfocused, and just not right. In fact, Barbara had made an appointment to take Natalia to the doctor on July 27, 2005, an appointment she missed because her daughter woke up early that morning with a high-pitched scream, followed by her collapse and a 911 call. Although Natalia’s tiny body showed no bruising, scratches, or grip marks, doctors concluded from bleeding in her eyes and the lining of her brain that she had been shaken, twice: a milder assault just before her collapse and a more violent shaking a week or more earlier. Barbara’s father Dan Schrock has written a dense but shocking book, Journey With “Justice”, that chronicles the misinformation spread among family members by police investigators intent on building a case against the last adult alone with the little girl.
When his 2-month-old son seemed to be choking, single father Andrew Sprint checked the boy’s airway and performed CPR. Then the child’s breathing seemed shallow, so Andrew dialed 911. Doctors diagnosed shaken baby syndrome based on the brain findings, and Andrew was convicted in a bench trial. He hasn’t seen his son since the day of the crisis, or even heard any updates on his condition.
A child care provider with years of experience and a fabulous reputation, Stephanie Spurgeon denied hurting the infant who collapsed shortly after being picked up from Spurgeon’s home. At her trial, doctors said the child had died of blunt force trauma, presumably against a soft surface, like a bed or sofa, since she had no bruises, red marks, fractures, or other signs of battering, and no neck damage, as would be expected with shaking. Three years after her conviction, Stephanie remains in prison but enjoys the support of her family and community. Her case is under appeal.
Andrew Stephens had brought his 3-month-old daughter Rylee to the ER three times in as many days for vomiting and limpness. Twice she was sent home, but the third time she was transferred to a nearby children’s hospital, where an MRI revealed bleeding around her brain. Nearly three years later, Rylee seems to have recovered fully, but her father was convicted of child abuse in June of 2015. The family has started an on-line fundraising page to help pay for an appeal.
Robert “Dave” Wilkes
Single father Dave Wilkes had spent the day moving into a new apartment. When he stopped by the unit of a friend to pick up his son, 3-month-old Gabriel, he stayed and chatted while feeding the boy a bottle. Within minutes of returning to his own apartment, he says, Gabriel made a “gurgling sound” and stopped breathing. At the hospital, though, doctors were sure the boy had been shaken to death, as reported here. The Montana Innocence Project is now appealing Dave’s case, arguing that a second look at the medical records reveals Gabriel suffered from a liver condition that caused his collapse.