Thursday, 21 April 2011

SBS: Pennsylvania: 10 year old found responsible for death of Heath Ryder at day care

Myles Snyder
A jury seated to hear testimony in a coroner's inquest has found a 10-year-old girl and her babysitter criminally responsible for the death of an infant at a Shippensburg home last summer.
The findings came after two days of emotional testimony at Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey Conner's inquest into the death of 10-month-old Heath Ryder, who died at Penn State Hershey Medical Center four days after suffering injuries July 29 at the home day care operated by Dottie Bowers.
Jurors recommended a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Bowers and a charge of third-degree murder against the 10-year-old, who is accused of shaking and tossing the baby.
Dr. Mark Dias, a pediatric neurosurgeon who treated Heath at Penn State Hershey, testified Friday that the infant suffered extremely traumatic brain injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
"I don't see how this could be accidental," Dias said. "This had to have been violent; significant, violent trauma."
Dias said that based on the evidence, he concluded that Heath's injuries were caused by the 10-year-old.
A seven-year-old girl who attended the home day care testified Thursday that she witnessed the 10-year-old shake Heath and throw him in a crib. She said she felt his stomach and his nose and noticed that "nothing was moving."
A state police criminal investigator later testified that the girl's story had changed since he interviewed her.
The 10-year-old was called as a witness Thursday, but chose to remain silent.
Dias added that there wasn't much doctors could do once Health arrived at the hospital, but said his injuries might have been treatable had Bowers called 911 when she found him unresponsive. Police testified yesterday that Bowers never made the call for help.
Heath's mother, Sherry Ryder, told jurors that she made the emergency call after Bowers ignored her pleas. She said she was on her way home from work when Bowers phoned to say Heath would not wake up and was breathing abnormally. She said she rushed to the home to find her son limp and lifeless, and called 911 while she performed CPR.
Bowers was called before the jury Friday, but she also exercised her Fifth Amendment right to not testify.
The findings of the jury are non-binding. Prosecutors may decide or decline to pursue the charges.
"I can change the opinion of the jury," Conner said. "I have the right to give my own and once I give the decision to the district attorney, he can still give his own decisions. There is nothing binding about this. This is to gather more information and to gather the opinion of some jurors, so this is not at all from law enforcement."
Heath's family cried as the jury announced its findings and later said they were happy with the verdicts.
"I think it's the beginning," Cliff Swartz said. "It will be the first step in the beginning of the healing process."

No comments:

Post a Comment