CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -
A hearing was held in Franklin County on Thursday to help determine if anyone should be held criminally responsible for the death of a ten-month old baby who died last summer after he was injured at day care.
This was the first time in more than a decade that officials have held a Coroner's Inquest. The inquest is similar to a court hearing. On Thursday, several witnesses testified in front of a jury.
Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey Conner explained, "The purpose of a coroner's inquest is to assist a District Attorney and assist myself to help determine a physical cause and manner of death."
The hearing was intense and emotional. Heath Ryder died at Penn State Hershey Medical Center just days after he was injured at day care.
His mother, Sherry Ryder testified that on July 29, she got a call she never expected on her way home from work. That morning she dropped her baby boy off at Dottie Bower's Shippensburg home. She had been sending both of her sons to the day care since 2009. That evening when she went to pick up Heath, Ryder testified she found him limp and lifeless.
Bowers never called 911 to get help. Instead, she called Ryder, who rushed to the house. Once Ryder saw her son, she pleaded with Bowers to call for help. In Thursday's hearing, Ryder's 911 call was played. During the call you can hear her trying to give information and revive her baby.
Another witness, a seven-year-old girl who attended the same home day care, testified that she witnessed another child, a 10-year-old girl shaking the baby. She said during the hearing, "I could see her shaking him. She threw him in the crib. I went in and felt his stomach and his nose and nothing was moving." The girl demonstrated what she saw to jurors by violently shaking a baby doll.
Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Investigator Trooper Bopp later testified that the girl's story had changed since he interviewed her. Still, he explained that the baby's injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, and that a panel of doctors agreed during a hearing last November at the attorney general's office that the 10-year-old girl was capable of the act.
The 10-year-old was called in as a witness during Thursday's hearing, but pleaded the Fifth Amendment. A videotaped interview with the child and state police was played during the hearing. She admitted being involved during that interview.
The jury, comprised of six women and two men, will ultimately decide who will be held criminally responsible. They will hear more testimony on Friday morning.
Heath Ryder's organs were donated, saving the lives of three others.