Stephanie Rochester judged insane when she killed her son, found not guilty
In June 2010, Superior's Stephanie Rochester smothered her baby, six-month-old Rylan. That fact's never been in dispute. Since then, the question has been: Was Rochester legally insane when she committed this shocking act?
Yes, a judge has decided -- meaning that she's been found not guilty in Rylan's death.
Rochester's arrest affidavit, on view below in its entirety, suggested that the young mom ended her child's life because of autism fears. According to the document, Rochester had been feeling anxious and depressed for several weeks -- and in late May, while her husband, Lloyd, was on a business trip to Sweden, she became increasingly concerned that Rylan was showing signs of autism; his eyes would roll to the sides, his hands would shake, and he avoided eye contact, in her view. She'd had personal experience with autistic children, having worked as a counselor at Children's Hospital, and even though professionals assured her that Rylan was perfectly normal, she continued to worry.
Upon Lloyd's return, the couple took Rylan to a Broomfield hospital over concerns about a case of thrush and a lack of appetite. Again, he received a clean bill of health, but Rochester didn't buy it. In order to halt Rylan's alleged suffering, and her own, she placed a plastic shopping bag over his head, then put a blanket over his face. But a short time later, she removed the bag, threw it away and had dinner with Lloyd. At that point, Rylan was fine.
After the meal, however, Rochester returned to Rylan's room and placed three folded baby blankets over Rylan's face. She later removed those as well. But during the wee hours of June 1, she rose again and put folded, adult-size blankets on Rylan's head. Then, about six a.m., she got up, thinking about heading to the garage and turning on the car in order to kill herself. Instead, she went to Rylan's room and "just lost it," removing the blankets and then taking the boy to a nearby hospital in Lloyd's company.
Another photo of the once-happy family.
Unfortunately, Rylan could not be revived -- and shortly thereafter, Rochester was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one of child abuse resulting in death. But questions about her mental health, or lack thereof, continued to circulate, and in July 2011, after a long delay, a Colorado Mental Health Institute evaluation determined that she was legally insane at the time of the crime.
As reported by the Boulder Daily Camera, this analysis weighed heavily on Boulder District Judge Thomas Mulvahill -- especially Rochester's feeling that Rylan had become an "alien, toxic, contaminated being" who was, in some way, possessed. Hence, Mulvahill found her not guilty by reason of insanity.
Lloyd was disappointed by the verdict, telling the Camera that no one in the family had an inkling about Rochester's reported obsession with possession or toxicity, as opposed to autism paranoia. "We felt in general like the Boulder County justice system bent over backwards to protect Stephanie's rights and didn't focus on the real victim, which was Rylan," he said.
Rochester has been committed to a state mental facility. She'll be released when it's determined she's no longer a danger to herself or others. Look below to read the arrest affidavit.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Stepahnie Rochester baby-smothering case on hold because psych evaluation hasn't happened."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.