The Death of Innocence

The police say Krystal Voss shook her son hard enough to kill him. The evidence says something else.

At the sheriff's office, Alejo turns on a tape recorder and reads Ramirez his rights.

"It sounds like I'm under arrest," Ramirez says.

"No," Alejo says.

Voss and her son.
Voss and her son.
Looking back: Voss doted on her son, but a key 
phrase inserted into her statement to police suggested 
that she'd hurt him before the injury was reported.
Looking back: Voss doted on her son, but a key phrase inserted into her statement to police suggested that she'd hurt him before the injury was reported.

"I guess I watch too much TV. I always thought when they said that, that means...."

"No," Alejo says. "What I'm asking you to do is, Pat, cooperate with me. That sound fair?"

Ramirez says it does and signs the waiver. He tells Alejo that he arrived at Voss's house shortly after noon. He brought a can of Foster's beer with him and drank half of it. The plan was to watch Kyran while Voss worked, then he and Voss were going to drive back to Denver and spend the weekend with his family, leaving Gaston with Kyran. He had come, he says, "mostly to see Krystal...we just get along real well."

Alejo listens impassively. "Would you say -- is she a girlfriend," he asks, "or a mistress, or...?"

His question trails off, as if he's run out of possibilities.

"They kind of have a lifestyle," Ramirez says. "They're not very -- want to be very open about what they do."

"You sleeping with her?"

"I have, but not on a regular basis," Ramirez says. "We're not boyfriend and girlfriend."

"You've had sex together."

"Yes, we've had sex. It was with permission from her husband and my wife."

"You've had a sexual relationship with Krystal," Alejo says again. It's not a question anymore, just a fact.

"I don't think she's wanting me to tell you that."

"Well, that's all right," Alejo says. "She's not here."

After he arrived at the house, Ramirez says, he visited with Voss and Kyran, pinched the boy's cheeks. Then Voss put the boy down for a nap.

"Did you guys then go to bed?" Alejo asks.

Ramirez denies it. The sexual relationship was over.

"I've basically been trying to just develop more of a friendship and kind of back off from the sexual thing," he says, "because it's kind of been, it's not really that great. It's not as exciting as you thought it was from the outside looking in...I think we're going to be better friends than anything else."

After Voss left, Kyran woke up. "He was kind of nervous because he knew his mom wasn't there," Ramirez says. "He wanted me to carry him. I kind of didn't want to, but I thought, okay, I'll put him on my shoulders.... I really like the kid. He's really a sweet kid. Smart, too. You can say something, he can repeat it."

The two were exploring the grounds behind the house when the accident occurred: "I'm not sure if I rolled my ankle, or if I just lost my balance, but he went backwards. I reached back and grabbed him.... That's when I lost my footing... I just couldn't hold onto him... It was almost like I flew back. He landed directly on his head and I landed on him... It really scared me. My elbow hit dead on his side, in his stomach or something, and he let out a squeal."

Ramirez brought Kyran into the house. The boy couldn't stand up. Ramirez panicked. He undressed Kyran, put him in the tub, splashed water on him. He shook him and smacked his face. Nothing helped.

Ramirez feels terrible. He didn't mean to hurt Kyran, he insists. He didn't call 911 because he didn't know the area well enough to give directions to the house. He didn't return to the hospital because he thought he was supposed to go to Denver. He agrees to take a polygraph.

Alejo is far from satisfied. And over the next five days, while Kyran clings to life -- precariously, miraculously, given the devastating damage to his brain -- the investigation takes a bizarre turn. The child's injuries don't match the fall Ramirez recounted. He has bruises on his chest and abdomen, retinal hemorrhages and an acute subdural hematoma -- a bleeding inside the skull that's usually caused by some form of blunt impact or possibly an acceleration injury, in which the head is whipped back and forth. There's no conclusive evidence, such as a skull fracture, of an external blow to the head, but there is more than enough to suspect that Kyran has suffered some form of non-accidental trauma. At least one of the doctors who examines him at Children's Hospital believes he might have been violently shaken.

Armed with that information, Alejo questions Ramirez repeatedly. Although he never takes a polygraph, his story changes, then changes again, into a stunning accusation aimed at Kyran's mother. Alejo also obtains a peculiar written statement from Krystal Voss, in which she admits to having shaken Kyran the night before Ramirez's visit. On February 6, Voss is arrested at Children's Hospital and charged with child abuse.

When Kyran dies in foster care seven weeks later, of causes attributed to the head injury, the charges against Voss are raised to first-degree murder. Ramirez is charged with being an accessory to murder. The prosecution's theory of the case seems to be that Krystal Voss shook her son to within an inch of his life, then concocted the "accident" scenario with her compliant ex-lover in an effort to cover up the crime.

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