The Death of Innocence

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

The theory flies in the face of what other witnesses saw and heard, the medical records, the autopsy findings, the physical evidence at the crime scene and what is currently known about the controversial phenomenon known as Shaken Baby Syndrome, or SBS. But such considerations haven't prompted a reevaluation of the case by the Alamosa police or the local prosecutor. Voss's preliminary hearing is scheduled for September.

"We stand by our case," says Alamosa County chief deputy district attorney Mike Gonzales. "That's really all I can say at this point."

Voss maintains her innocence. She says the investigation got off track at the very beginning, when she wasn't behaving the way people expected her to behave at the hospital and Alejo began to draw his own conclusions about why Ramirez wasn't telling him the truth.

Special knowledge: Patrick Ramirez changed his story 
about Kyran's injuries after he was arrested and 
charged with child abuse.
Special knowledge: Patrick Ramirez changed his story about Kyran's injuries after he was arrested and charged with child abuse.
"We loved him the way he was." Kyran's parents sang 
to him while doctors battled the head injuries.
"We loved him the way he was." Kyran's parents sang to him while doctors battled the head injuries.

"I believe it started with Alejo's opinion of my lifestyle," she says now. "When Patrick told him that he and I had been intimate and that it was okay with my husband, the tone of it all really changed. All of a sudden Alejo decided I was a whore who needed to be punished."

Kyran Gaston-Voss was born in a tub of warm water in Denver on August 3, 2001. From the start, his proud parents and their close friends considered him to be a remarkably happy and good-natured baby.

"He was absolutely perfect," Voss says. "So brilliant. So healthy. Incredibly observant for a newborn. People were like, 'Wow, he's a Buddha baby! He's so mellow!'"

"He was a rather exceptional child," Gaston says. "Very calm, very attentive. He developed very quickly."

"Kyran was one of those kids you meet who change the way you look at the world," says Molly Carmody, a friend of the family. "He never cried when I was around; he'd just sit on your lap and smile. He was a magical child."

His parents had been married for three months. Voss was 27 years old; Gaston was 24. It was his first marriage, her second -- not counting the pagan handfasting ritual she and another man had celebrated in between her two official weddings.

Voss grew up in Wyoming and moved to Denver in her late teens to take art classes. One day, after an herbal tea did wonders for her bronchitis, she decided to pursue a career in nutrition and natural healing; it was her "calling," she told friends. She took courses at Boulder's School of Natural Medicine and received diplomas in several fields, including herbalism, iridology and naturopathy. She met Gaston in 1998, when both of them were working at a Wild Oats store in Aurora and her previous marriage was falling apart.

"I had a horrible crush on him," she says. "But I was his boss, so it was all very platonic for a while."

Gaston shared her passion for natural foods and herbal medicine. They talked about having a family and raising their child out in the country, away from urban toxins, maybe setting up their own wellness center where Voss could teach people about herbs and nutrition and cleansing programs.

Kyran's arrival hurried things along. The following spring, when the baby was eight months old, they moved to Alamosa, with the aim of building a solar-powered, straw-bale home on five acres they'd bought near Blanca, on the edge of the Sangre de Cristo range. Gaston found a job with an irrigation engineering company, while Voss worked at the local organic-food co-op a couple of days a week.

The San Luis Valley has its pockets of New Agers, neo-hippies and granola grannies, mostly in the vicinity of Crestone. But Alamosa is worlds away from Crestone, psychically speaking; it's the valley's center for agriculture and tourism, flanked by large potato farms, the Great Sand Dunes and a string of close-knit, largely Hispanic villages. Gaston and Voss knew few people in the area and didn't have many opportunities to make new friends. "We didn't have a whole lot of community," Gaston says.

At a Labor Day barbecue, a mutual friend introduced them to Patrick Ramirez. Although Ramirez was skeptical about natural medicine, the couple soon discovered they had much in common with him. He, too, was from Denver, from Gaston's old neighborhood near Washington Park. He, too, was interested in building a house in the valley.

"He was taking classes and trying to start his own business," Gaston recalls. "I just got the feeling he was a guy similar to me, a family guy, taking the opportunity to get some education and make more of himself."

They exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch. Ramirez called Voss at home the next day. As Voss remembers the conversation, he was keen on seeing her again.

"He said something like, 'I was kind of tipsy last night. I thought I better stop before I made an ass of myself, but I'm really attracted to you,'" she recalls.

Voss had no doubt that Ramirez was hitting on her. What he didn't know was that Gaston and Voss had an open marriage; they had strong beliefs on the subject, though they weren't exactly eager to share them with strangers.

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