Stephanie Rochester smothered baby because of autism fears, affidavit says (No. 4)

The horrible story of Stephanie Rochester, the apparently perfect Superior mom arrested on suspicion that she killed her infant son, Rylan, just got worse.

A newly released affidavit (check it out below) details her ultimately successful efforts to smother the boy, motivated by her fears that he was autistic.

The arrest affidavit, accessible here, tells the tale in chillingly matter-of-fact detail even as it leads credence to speculation that Rochester was suffering from post-partum depression. Here's a passage that speaks to her mental trials:

Stephanie said that for several weeks she has been feeling anxious and depressed. Her husband, Lloyd, went on a business trip to Sweden between May 22 and May 28, 2010. During the time he was gone Stephanie became increasingly concerned that their baby, Rylan, was showing signs of autism. She stated Rylan's eyes would roll to the sides, he was shaking his hands, and he was avoiding eye contact. She began researching autism signs on the Internet and reading blogs about autism. She stated that when you have a child with autism, "your life is wined [sic]... financially and emotionally". She stated she felt like she couldn't take care of Rylan.

According to the affidavit, Rochester had personal experience with autistic children, having worked as a counselor at Children's Hospital -- and while she was assured that Rylan was developing normally, she couldn't shake the feeling that he suffered from the condition.

Her trepidations increased on May 30 and 31, when she and Lloyd took Rylan to a Broomfield hospital due to concerns about thrush and a lack of appetite. Again, a clean bill of health didn't comfort her.

Upon their return from the hospital, Rochester thought, "I've got to do something," the affidavit says -- and she did. Back to the document:

She felt that it was her fault. Stephanie told Detective Thompson that she has had a lot of suffering in her life and she didn't want to suffer anymore or have Rylan suffer. She took a plastic bag, she thought it was a Target shopping bag, and placed it up and over Rylan's head. She then put a blanket on top of his face. Rylan was asleep at the time. She said that she had conducted research on the computer and read that carbon monoxide poisoning deaths don't hurt and you just go to sleep. She did not want Rylan to hurt.

Stephanie said that after a short while, maybe a minute, she removed the plastic bag and Rylan was still breathing. She threw the plastic bag into the bathroom garbage can. Stephanie went downstairs and ate dinner with Lloyd. She had a glass of wine and they talked about selling their house. She and Lloyd talked about they wanted to have fun in life. Stephanie said that she knew they would not have fun while they were caring for a severely autistic child.

This conversation appears to have convinced Rochester to make another attempt to end Rylan's life:

Stephanie said that Lloyd began using the computer and was on-line and around 2000 hours she went back upstairs to Rylan's room. She took three folded baby blankets out of the laundry basket and placed them, still folded, on top of Rylan's face. She then went back downstairs and she and Lloyd began preparing for a trip they were scheduled to leave on June 1, 2010 to Cape Cod. Approximately an hour later Stephanie said she "got nervous" and went back to Rylan's room to check on him. She took the blankets off of his head. She stated Rylan was still breathing but his eyes were open and he was not responsive. Lloyd came into the room a few minutes after Stephanie walked in to also check on Rylan. They were in there for a few minutes then they went to bed.

She didn't stay there, however:

Stephanie said that while she was in bed she could hear Rylan whimpering. She estimated that around 0230 hours on June 1, 2010 she got up from bed. She went into the guest room, which is located next to Rylan's room, and got adult blankets off of either the floor or bottom shelf of the guest room closet. She thought she may have used two blankets and one might be blue. She took the folded blankets and placed them on Rylan's head. She stated she did not apply pressure. She stated that Rylan continued sleeping and did not wake up when she put the blankets on his head. She said she put the blankets on his head to stop Rylan from breathing so that he would die.

Stephanie stated she intended to kill herself as well, however she did not have a plan on how to do that. She said she could not kill herself and leave Lloyd with the burden of raising Rylan.

The next morning, her suicidal thoughts were met with feelings of regret, as the affidavit details:

Stephanie said that she got up at approximately 0600 hours on June 1, 2010. She thought about going into the garage and turning on the car to kill herself, but instead went into the baby's room. She took the blankets off of Rylan's head and "just lost it" when she realized what she had done. She stated she threw the blankets into the guest room so that Lloyd would not see them. She and Lloyd then got dressed and drove Rylan to Avista Hospital.

Unfortunately, Rylan could not be revived, setting into motion the chain of events that's led to charges against Rochester -- two counts of first-degree murder and one of child abuse resulting in death.

She's been on suicide watch in recent days -- for obvious reasons.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts