An attorney for the Superior mother accused of suffocating her baby by putting plastic bags and blankets over his face pressed the deputy coroner Wednesday about whether the 6-month-old boy could have suffered Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
"You see a number of the same symptoms in asphyxia as you would in a SIDS death?" Katherine Herald, one of Stephanie Rochester's defense attorneys, asked Boulder County Deputy Coroner John Meyer during a preliminary hearing in Boulder's district court.
Meyer agreed, adding that as is the case in many SIDS deaths, he was unable to nail down a time of death for Rylan Rochester, who was pronounced dead June 1 after his parents took him to Avista Adventist hospital in
Stephanie Rochester, who's charged with first-degree murder, told investigators that she smothered her baby over a period of several hours with bags and blankets because she was afraid he had autism and would ruin her life.
But an autopsy didn't uncover any fibers in Rylan's nose, mouth or lungs, Meyer testified during Wednesday's preliminary hearing, held to determine whether enough evidence exists for a case to proceed.
The judge ruled that it did, and Rochester is still being held without bond in Boulder County Jail.
"You could have ruled Rylan's death SIDS," Harold told Meyer. "The only reason you classified the death as asphyxia is because of Mrs. Rochester's statements."
Prosecutors played video of those statements in court Wednesday, and Rochester wept in the courtroom and covered her eyes.
In the video, she said she and her husband, Lloyd Rochester -- who filed for divorce shortly after her arrest -- couldn't afford their Superior house and she didn't think she could handle having a disabled child.
She said she had been concerned the baby had autism, even though doctors said he developing normally, and had taken Rylan to Children's Hospital the night she's accused of smothering him. She and her husband left without being seen, she said.
"When we got home, we started cooking dinner, and Lloyd just seemed so happy when it was just me and him," she said. "I just felt he was really stressed at the doctor's office and he seemed angry and said, 'I didn't think it was going to be like this.' "That really hurt," Rochester said in the recorded interview. "I don't want to blame him, but I felt like it was my fault. So I thought I had to so something."
Rochester said she "just wasn't feeling safe" and thought, "I don't know if I can handle this. I've suffered enough in my life, and I cannot suffer any more."
She talked about how she placed a plastic Target bag over Rylan's head on the night of May 31 for a minute or so.
"But I couldn't do that in my heart, so I pulled it away and threw it away," she said. "I just couldn't do it."
Later, after the couple ate dinner and talked about wanting to "have fun," Rochester said she went back upstairs and put blankets over the baby's face. She said they went to pack for an upcoming trip to Cape Cod and she took the blankets off at one point before putting them back on later.
"I didn't have a plan," she said in the taped interview. "I was just reacting. I don't know."
In the morning, when Rochester awoke to find her baby not breathing, she said, "I just lost it."
"He wasn't there any more," she said before breaking down and putting her head in her hands.
The couple rushed to Avista Adventist, where staff members said they were acting appropriately for the situation.
According to testimony Wednesday from Boulder County sheriff's detective Don Dillard, an emergency room chaplain said the case appeared to be a "SIDS death."
"She was following protocol after a SIDS death," Dillard testified. "That includes giving them both time alone with their baby."