The Death of Innocence

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

The arrest of Krystal Voss shocked many people. Friends, relatives, co-workers and former teachers wrote letters to the Alamosa newspaper or to the judge, asserting that the woman they knew was incapable of being violent toward anyone, let alone her own son. They wondered how the man who had admitted to injuring Kyran, a man with a prior record of assaults, had become the chief witness against her.

Damien's mother, Eileen Marcks, a veteran nurse, had spent enough time around the couple to know that her grandson was far from the "absolutely perfect" child his mother described, but she never saw Voss lose her temper with him. "I've seen them coping with him when he was fussy, and they were incredibly calm," Marcks says. "I have seen a remarkable patience in her."

John Johnston
All natural: Krystal Voss and Damien Gaston met at 
Wild Oats. Their son, Kyran, was born at home.
All natural: Krystal Voss and Damien Gaston met at Wild Oats. Their son, Kyran, was born at home.

"I've known Kyran since he was a day old, and that kid was surrounded by nothing but the highest quality of love," declares musician Rob Judson, a longtime friend of the couple. "I have a daughter, and I'm a pretty loving dad, and I felt pretty inadequate. When she visited them, they had her eating vitamins and brushing her teeth with herbal supplements that she just loved. This is very frustrating to me, because they're really good people."

"Krystal is the most loving, compassionate, open, caring person I've ever met," says Molly Carmody, Judson's girlfriend. "But this is really about Kyran. I want to see justice done for the guy who did this, and justice for an eighteen-month-old baby who couldn't speak for himself."

The arrest kept Voss away from her son for most of the last few weeks of his life. Even after she was released on bail, a restraining order requested by social services barred her from visiting the hospital. Eventually, she was granted supervised visitation of one hour a day, then two hours.

Both parents wanted to be actively involved in caring for their son, but Kyran now had a court-appointed guardian who could overrule any of their medical requests. The doctors at Children's were too busy battling the head injury with surgery and drugs -- procedures to drain fluid from Kyran's skull and reduce the swelling, to stabilize him with a temporary drug-induced coma, to insert feeding tubes and treat his seizures -- to pay much heed to the parents' requests for transdermal herbal wraps, cayenne pepper rubs and their son's special nutritional needs. It probably didn't help that there were few prior medical records for the child; Kyran had been to the doctor only once in his life, for a viral infection. He hadn't received any vaccinations because of his parents' beliefs on the subject.

Despite the doctors' efforts, Kyran had little spontaneous movement. He couldn't see or eat with his mouth. But Voss and Gaston were convinced that he could feel their presence. "It was subtle," Gaston says. "Nothing that medical science would deem as proof."

They held him, sang to him, surrounded him with his favorite stuffed animals. "You could soothe him with music," Marcks says, "or Damien's voice. So he had some level of consciousness. We loved him any way he was. He was our guy."

In March, Kyran was released to a foster home. His parents saw him one time after that, during a supervised visit at a child-placement agency in Arvada. They were allowed to administer one of his prescribed medications. He fell asleep immediately, a deep sleep that made them question whether their son was being overmedicated.

Two days later, they received a phone call informing them that Kyran had passed away during the night.

According to Lakewood police reports, the foster mother found Kyran lying on his stomach in his crib; he wasn't breathing. From her own reading of the reports, Marcks suspects that the baby rolled over and suffocated because he was too weak to raise his head; she believes that the foam wedges that were supposed to keep the baby on his side when he slept had been forgotten or improperly placed. No investigation has been launched of the caregiver; from a legal perspective, it may not matter whether he suffocated or not. The head injury had left Kyran barely alive, and officially, he died of complications from that injury.

The foster mother told the police that Kyran suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome and that his biological parents were strange people: "She said they were holistic, and they tried to heal their child by placing a tea bag over his head."

The death certificate listed his death as a homicide.

When Damien Gaston returned to the double-wide trailer after spending several days at the hospital in Denver, he found a copy of the search warrant Alejo had left shortly before he arrested Voss. He also found traces of a crime scene that tells a somewhat different story than the one Ramirez offered in his final session with Alejo.

There was a dirty diaper on the floor of the living room. In his first statement, Ramirez had talked about changing Kyran's "crappy diaper" before he took him outside. But his later account said nothing about a crappy diaper; Kyran was supposedly already badly hurt when he arrived.

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