Older but Bitter

Sixty-eight-year-old Wanda Crawford hasn't killed anyone yet. But authorities say it's not for lack of trying.

That morning, however, Troy sat Stephanie down on a blanket in the living room--she'd only recently begun sitting up by herself--and gave her some toys before turning on the television, dialing in a children's cartoon show.

When Selina finished with her shower and entered the living room, Stephanie was busily chewing on a toy. But when she spotted her mother, Selina testified at Crawford's trial, Stephanie "waved her arms and smiled and giggled and babbled and spit."

Troy was the first to leave the house that morning. When he turned to go, Selina was holding the baby. At her mother's urging, Stephanie said "dada" and waved "bye-bye."

It was the last time Stephanie would be able to do either.
When Selina was ready to go, she strapped Stephanie into a car seat in the passenger side of her Honda and headed south for the five-minute drive to the sitter's home. Selina arrived at Crawford's house at approximately 7:45 a.m. and took Stephanie to the family room, where Crawford was seated on the sofa. Selina removed Stephanie's jacket, gave her daughter a toy and lingered for ten minutes or so before leaving, just like always. The only difference between that day and any other was that Marshall Hughes arrived at the house while Selina was still there.

Hughes, a serviceman, usually dropped off his two children, aged six months and two years, at 5:30 a.m. on his way to work. But he had taken some time off from work that week to remodel his house, so he brought the children in later than usual. "I remember [Stephanie] smiling," Hughes testified at Crawford's trial, "and I may have patted her on the head as I left." The baby, he said, seemed alert, happy and well.

Two hours after leaving Stephanie, Selina was working at a colleague's desk when another co-worker rushed to her side. Crawford had called, the woman told Selina. Something was wrong with Stephanie.

Selina ran to the phone and called the sitter. "Wanda said that Stephanie fell and hit her head and that she was not breathing," Selina testified at Crawford's trial. "Then she handed the phone to a paramedic who said [Stephanie] might have aspirated. He told me to meet them at Memorial Hospital."

Selina was frightened and her heart was racing as a co-worker drove her to the hospital. Just one glance at her baby confirmed Selina's worst fears.

"She was in a bed with just a diaper on," Selina told the jury. "A doctor was squeezing a thing into her mouth for her to breathe, and she was laying there not moving. She was really, really cold.

"I touched her hands and I touched her feet," Selina continued. "I was always making sure that she had socks on because her feet would get cold. And she was just like a block of ice. Motionless. Her eyes were closed and she just laid there."

It seemed to Selina that there were a dozen people in the room with her and her daughter. Wires and tubes snaked in and around the tiny body--an IV, a heart monitor. When a priest entered and began to pray over Stephanie, Selina testified, the doctors told her she should leave the room. "I went," Selina said. "Actually, they had to escort me out."

When Troy arrived at Memorial a short time later, having been summoned by one of Selina's co-workers, a hospital aide grabbed him by the shoulder. "She said Stephanie was in the emergency room," Troy testified, "and that 'your wife needs you more than your daughter needs you right now.' I believe her words were, 'Help your wife.'"

Troy then rounded a corner and saw his wife slumped on the floor, crying. When he looked up at the emergency-room table, he saw a priest standing over Stephanie, giving her the last rites.

The doctors who treated Stephanie that day suspected almost immediately that the baby had been shaken. Emergency-room physician Michael Thompson testified at Crawford's trial that he was skeptical of the babysitter's explanation of how Stephanie was injured. Crawford had told paramedics that Stephanie was walking around with a baby bottle in her hands and had fallen backward onto the carpeted floor when she tipped her head back to drink. After that, Crawford told the paramedics, Stephanie had lost consciousness and suffered a seizure.

But Stephanie wasn't walking at the time; she couldn't even stand without help. And from their experience, doctor after doctor testified, babies who fall over onto a carpeted floor do not suffer cardio-respiratory arrest. "You've got to understand that in Shaken Baby Syndrome, this isn't [the result of] just playing a little rougher than usual," said Dr. Susan Reichert, director of the Child Protection Center at the Children's Hospital in Oakland, California. "It isn't throwing the baby up in the air; that's not the kind of shaking we are talking about. This is shaking using a much larger degree of force than is seen in the ordinary care of children. It's excessive. It is violent."

And it had to have been committed by an adult, Reichert said. The only way another child could create enough force to cause such injuries would be by throwing the baby out of a second- or third-story window.

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