‘Shaken baby’ trial begins
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Seven-month-old Lane Schaefer was fine when he was left at Shelly Richter’s in-home day care on Aug. 19, 2010.
Only a few hours later, he was severely injured, Cole County Assistant Prosecutor told jurors Monday afternoon in her opening statement in a “shaken baby” case against Richter, which resumes at 9 a.m. today.
A Cole County grand jury indicted Richter, now 42, in September 2010 for felony child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
“He was in a great mood, ready to go” after a morning nap and before she took him to Richter’s home, Jessica Schaefer — the boy’s mother — testified.
But after she returned to Richter’s Taos home because she’d gotten a call reporting an accident involving her son, Schaefer said: “He was lying on the floor, unresponsive. His eyes were rolled back in his head and were barely slitted open.
“He looked pale, and he wasn’t moving his legs at all.”
And he was having trouble breathing.
Schaefer testified she rode with her son in the ambulance to Capital Region Medical Center, where she worked as a surgical nurse.
“As soon as we walked in the door, the emergency room doctor called for the helicopter, without (making) any exam,” Schaefer testified.
Doctors made a CT scan of the baby’s head before the helicopter arrived.
Doctors in Columbia said the boy “had bleeding on his brain (and) in his eyes, but there were no broken bones or bruises,” Nield said, and determined he “had suffered abusive head trauma.”
The evidence being given to the jury this week, she said, would show that “this was no accident. It was abusive.”
Richter told a Cole County Sheriff’s detective just hours after Lane was injured that she had picked the boy up from a walker, took a step backwards and tripped over a toddler she had not seen behind her.
As she was falling toward the floor, she said, she must have let go of the boy and he fell to the floor — described in the detective’s probable cause statement as a concrete floor covered with linoleum.
But, Nield told jurors, several doctors will testify that Richter’s explanation “is not possible. ... The doctors are going to tell you that’s not how it happened.”
Richter’s attorney, Shane Farrow, didn’t make an opening statement Monday, telling Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce he would reserve his opportunity to make it later, after the state finishes presenting its evidence.
Seven men and seven women were chosen to hear the case. Two alternates will be released before the jury begins its deliberations.
Lane’s pediatrician, Dr. Douglas Boudreau of Capital Region Pediatric Associates, was the last witness Monday.
He told jurors he examined the boy on a regular basis from shortly after his birth on Jan. 10, 2010, through his six-month check-up in July.
“He started off smaller than average — he was about 4 weeks early,” Boudreau said. “His growth seemed appropriate, proportionate.”
And the doctor had no concerns.
Cole Schaefer, the boy’s father, gave jurors the same information Jessica had reported: That before the accident, the baby’s growth seemed to be “developing normally,” and he was able to sit up, hold his head up and was starting to react to sights and sounds.
“We played peek-a-boo a lot,” Cole testified.
Jessica testified she had to give up her job after the accident, so she can be with her son for the “multiple therapies” he attends each week.
“Most weeks, therapy is every day,” she testified. “Some days he has back to back to back (sessions), and some days, just one.”
Some treatment is done locally, but he goes to Kansas City every Sunday night for two days of work “at a specialized school,” Jessica said, “because he is blind.”
The Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired will help him learn how to get around in a world he can’t see.
He also takes seizure medicine now, she said.
Part of the state’s evidence Monday was a video showing some of the physical therapy treatments Lane gets.
Under cross-examination, both parents agreed they had no reason to suspect Richter of abuse before the 2010 incident.
But since the incident, Jessica testified, her son’s development has made very slow progress.
Now 3, she said, they don’t know how well he’ll develop.
“Lane’s doctors told us that, by the age of 6, we’ll have a better idea of what his life will be like in the future,” Jessica said.
After he spent nearly a month in the hospital after the 2010 incident, she said, “When we left the hospital, Lane was (like) a newborn, again — at 81⁄2 months.”
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