I first heard about Mary Weaver in 1998, in a prescient ABA Journal article by Mark Hansen, who called her “a poster child” for caretakers falsely accused of shaking babies. Weaver’s conviction was overturned in 1997, Hansen wrote, after new witnesses came forward to report that the 11-month-old who quit breathing in her care had been knocked unconscious in a fall earlier in the day.
Weaver’s attorney Steven Brennecke told me then that he wanted to write a book about the case—and now he has, in collaboration with Christian writer Deb Brammer. Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story is being released on Friday, November 22, 2013.
Edges follows both Weaver and Brennecke closely, from the terrifying meltdown through the unthinkable accusations, three full-on trials, a glacier of appeals, and two years in prison for Weaver. I admit I was impatient at first with the pacing, but when I realized the ultimately reflective nature of the narration, I gave myself over and was glad I did.
Like It Happened to Audrey and When Truth No Longer Matters, Edges illustrates how an early diagnosis of infant shaking can mislead investigators into targeting an innocent caretaker. But Edges also follows the spiritual journeys of the protagonists. While reading her Bible and talking with the prison chaplain and his wife, Weaver realizes she is living her ministry, but not by preaching: God has brought her to a place where others are comforted by the peace she carries with her, a peace made possible by her faith. The experience for her husband and young children is more about survival, while Brennecke faces his own spiritual crisis, as his best efforts as an attorney leave a woman he knows to be innocent in prison, and two children without their loving mother.
Myself, I was struck by the universal nature of the messages: There are things you have no control over; your only option is to control how you respond, for example.
Three personal tales of women ultimately exonerated of infant shaking have been published in the past year—the stories of Mary Weaver, Audrey Edmunds, and Heather Toomey—all of them moving and sobering. I do look forward to wrapping up my own book and adding it to the shelves, although my protagonist was never exonerated, alas.
What I really want is for the people who make these diagnoses and pursue these prosecutions to think more carefully when presented with cases of infant head injury. I am so weary of innocent parents and babysitters flattened by the opinions of people who have never even heard what the caretaker had to say.
If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome and infant head trauma, please see the home page of this site.