The first case below is the one that drew me into this project. The second I followed as it played out, since it happened in my own county after I’d already started my research. Each story illustrates a different way the classic model of SBS can encourage well-meaning experts to reach hasty conclusions. Click a highlighted name to reach the story.
- Stephanie, a suburban wife, mother and babysitter, 26 years old at the time of the accusations. Her story is the spine of my book. The infant in this case might have been abused, or maybe just dropped, but the timing of the injuries is not at all clear.
- Patti, a suburban adult child care provider, 32 years old at the time of the accusations. I believe there was no abuse in this case: Paramedics pulled a rubber band from the infant’s throat during resuscitation.
If you haven’t read the Prologue yet, check it out for Tammy’s story, a misdiagnosis of the genetic metabolic disorder Menkes disease.
I also bring your attention to a handful of other important and illustrative cases:
- Tonia Miller, whose daughter died of pneumonia, freed after 18 years in prison and 7 years of work by the Michigan Innocence Clinic
- Drayton Witt, whose son died of a seizure disorder, freed after a decade in prison and 4 years of work by the Arizona Justice Project
- Audrey Edmunds, a babysitter freed after a decade in prison by the Innocence Project of Wisconsin
- Russ Van Vleck, found innocent in the death of his son, who was born with a malformed skull
- Paul and Zabeth Bayne, granted custody of their children after four years of fighting
- Shirley Ree Smith, sentence commuted by Governor Jerry Brown in the spring of 2012
- Ernie Lopez, accepted a plea bargain in 2013 after his 2003 conviction was reversed in 2012
- Melissa Funte, an early example of the controversy
- David and Tiffany O’Shell, not SBS but an especially tragic story
- Lance Finner, rickets diagnosed as abuse
- Queenyona Boyd and Anthony Richards, Sr. birth injury diagnosed as abuse
The National Registry of Exonerations includes a number of additional overturned shaking convictions, many of them misdiagnoses of legitimate medical conditions:
- Pneumonia, in the case of Tonia Miller (registry entry, blog post)
- Sickle cell disease, in the case of Melonie Ware (registry entry, radio treatment)
- Stroke, in the case of Julie Baumer (registry entry, press treatment)
- Sepsis infection, in the case of Adrian Thomas (registry entry, film about his first trial)
- Urinary tract infection and hypoxia, in the case of Brandy Briggs (registry entry)
- SIDS, in the cases of Teresa Engberg-Lehmer (registry entry) and Joel Lehmer (registry entry), whose case helped unravel years of misdiagnoses by Dr. Thomas Bennett in Iowa (Los Angeles Times treatment, by reporter Barry Siegel)
- Accidental injury, in the cases of
- John Peel (whose registry entry includes a second case where charges were dropped when other doctors realized the child had died of pneumonia)
- Warren Hales (registry entry—this case also featured timing issues)
- Ken Marsh (registry entry)
- Michael Hansen (registry entry)
Some cases in the registry were overturned because they rested on timing:
- Audrey Edmunds (registry entry, press treatment, book about her ordeal)
- Mary Weaver (registry entry, press treatment, book about her ordeal)
- Abilgail Tiscareno (registry entry)
- Rashawn Greer (registry entry)
- Kim Hoover-Moore (press treatment)
The collected Posts on this web site include dozens of other cases.
Three books tell the stories of accused baby-shakers eventually cleared of the charges:
- It Happened to Audrey, the story of mother and infant-care provider Audrey Edmunds in Wisconsin
- When Truth No Longer Matters, the story of Heather Toomey and her husband in England, accused of shaking their younger son
- Edges of Truth, the story of mother and infant care provider Mary Weaver in Iowa
A fourth book is now in print, Journey With “Justice,” by Dan Schrock, whose daughter was sent to prison for the presumed shaking of her younger child. This from-the-heart account illustrates how the initial medical reports, combined with dubious tactics by both investigators and prosecutors, tainted the investigation and ultimate conviction.
A number of defendants enjoy on-line support sites and Facebook pages, and a handful of courageous families who’ve survived the accusations are speaking out. If you would like to add a link to the partial list below, please submit a response to this page and I will fold it in when I find the time. If you would like your comment to be confidential, mention that and I won’t approve it for posting.
- Clayton Allison (a shocking interrogation from the case)
- Amanda Brumfield (link to petition and the new site)
- Josh Burns
- Melissa Caluzinski (link to petition)
- Jason Curtis (link to petition)
- Lance Finner
- Michael Giovo, Jr.
- Jeffrey Havard
- James Higbee
- John Laverty, Jr.
- Marsha Mills (a short fall case)
- Clayton Mibroda
- Elwood Michiru (the Amanda Truth Project)
- Brian Peixoto (link to petition)
- Aaron Rasheed
- Andrew Stephens
- The Yhip Family
- Justice 4 Jason
35 responses to “Cases”
I would like to leave a link to my web: medicalkidnappingontario.ca, as we, too, are sadly a family where the father was falsely accused of SBS against our son. He was found innocent and exonerated in March 2021, after 3 years of no-contact order with his children.
I have my son back for two years now. My family remains intact, although we were both found indicated for neglect. Illinois law is worded that neglect/abuse can be proven if there is “A knowledge of a risk of harm.” present, and we both admitted to being overtired with our newborn. I fully support parents’ fight, and would love to put forth what help I can to others facing this situation.
Thank you so much for leaving a message. I will send you a private email when I find a minute. Best wishes to your family.
Please help us ! This is a current situation
I’m glad you found my blog, Ms. Taylor. I’ve sent you a private email. Best wishes to your family.
My grandson (who was 17 at the time) is sitting in jail now after 2 years of being accused of SBS. With hardly any money it’s hard for my daughter, his brother and I to bear. We are extremely frustrated with the type of help out there to prove his innocence. We have exausted all of the money we had. We are in Illinois in Will County and anyone out there that might be able to offer some type of assistance possibly with a forensic pathologist for little or no money would be appreciated. He is a gentle soul who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Actually any help would be appreciated at this point.
Thank you for contacting my blog, Ms. Harvey. I have sent you a private email.
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Thank you for adding Marsha Mills’ website to your listing. Team Marsha and all of her supporters are especially impressed with your diligent research and postings, and are looking forward to assisting in any way we can to organize a data base of families falsely accused and/or convicted of SBS.
Thank you for posting, Katherine. I’m always delighted to build the network.
How exciting that you’ve heard: There is a movement afoot to pull together a database of families affected by false accusations of infant shaking and slamming. The organizers are moving slowly and carefully, so no details are available yet, but I will be blogging about it when the project is ready to launch.
I am Mr. Lee and I attended the trial of Mr. Rico Green in the case of Gericho Griffin I attended the whole trial and still can’t believe that this mans life has been taken from him due to an unfortunate accident
Throughoutout the trial I paid very close attention to the ER doctor and Homicide Detectives and their statements concerning baby Gericho, and this is why I just can’t let it go. The Medical Examiner’s report stated when he did the autopsy on Gericho he did not see any bruising under the baby’s arm pit or ribs that would be consistent with shaking a baby to death. Gericho was a biracial child and extremely light skinned, so bruising would stick out like a sore thumb. Mr. Green in deposition stated the baby fell down the steps and that would be consistent with the injuries Gericho had. I wish that there was some one looking back at this case to Help this man regain his Life P. S.
if there are no signs of bruising why is Mr. Green LOSING HIS ……..LIFE.
thanks sue for posting about jason c i like you have got to know him through letters and he and my daughter are friends i hope justice will come soon for him and his family!!!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR LINKING OUR STORY TO YOUR PAGE! ❤
Having been in the position of the accused I can see both sides of the coin…… The need to protect an innocent child from further harm from a dangerous person and the parents right to make mistakes or have accidents happen that have terrible outcomes but none the less accidents. The ultimate problem is that SBS always comes down to the medical experts. I don’t care how many people you want to line up as character witnesses, how much money you spend on your children’s education or the worst thing you ever did was get a speeding ticket 5 years ago. It didn’t matter in my case. You have, for the most part, well intentioned Dr’s caring for a seriously ill or injured child and playing Columbo. They do this with a flawed set of tools that have been passed down to them from their predecessors in order to run an abuse analysis on the child in order to catch an abuser. They end up putting damning things in a medical chart of child with innocent parents. It has repercussions on families that they do not see once they hang their chart and go home. I can see how a police investigator or DCF, not knowing the complexities of the human brain, would trust in the opinion of a Dr. because after all these are neurosurgeons we are talking about, they are some of the smartest people on this planet. We trust them because we have FAITH that what they are telling us is true and medically sound based on their years of research and experience. I have had my son looked at by the most renowned neurosurgeons in the country. 99% of them, even the Pediatric intensivist who looked at my sons case from a medical malpractice standpoint when we wanted to sue the hospital have sworn with 100% certainty that my son WAS SHAKEN. They look at the evidence and give a medical opinion. I cannot overstate the word opinion. This opionion is what puts people in prison and the Doc’s know it. I had the great fortune of friends and family with deep pockets to support legal fees that i would never have had the means to pay. The reality is if you don’t have money to hire the medical experts to refute the prosecution, you will most likely go to jail. I am in the IT field and wish everyday that i had purchased one of those cool DVR camera systems that everyone sees at Bestbuy or CompUSA and caught the recording of my son falling from the bed. I would have saved everyone a lot of time money…the pain would have been the same. 3ft is all it took for a subdural and brain swelling. I am so fortunate that my son is still alive. The accident occurred when he was 9 months old. He is now 2 and a half years old and has hemiplasia on his right side. We will be going to Alabama to seek state of the art restrictive therapy for him. He is an amazing spirit and would melt anyones heart who reads this if you could meet him. I came very close to going to jail for SBS. The triad for SBS was present in my sons case. Sub dural, brain swelling, and bilateral retinal hemorrhage. I dissected the medical charts with my wife and father in law. Trying to see what it was that they were seeing that made this SBS so obvious without any outward signs of abuse. I researched, I spoke for hours on the phone with medical experts that most people would not have the opportunity to speak with. I read blog after blog, story after story try to figure out how i was going prove my innocence. The unfortunate truth is that innocent people will go to prison or remain in prison as these “experts” opinions slowly evolve. It is blogs such as this which contribute to expediting this evolution via raising awareness of the complexities of SBS and how it is not cut and dry by any means. I may never forgive myself for walking away from my son while he was sleeping in our bed. I was going to take just a quick minute to get his bottle ready in case he woke up. In that short time he did awake and he crawled over a pillow barrier and fell to the hardwood. All I can do now is work hard, help him with rehab, be an even better father and husband and embrace our new normal. Until you go through something like this you will never know how fragile living in a bubble of normal life really is. A great life was almost taken from me and my family because of an accident. I feel horrible for those less fortunate than me awaiting a more terrible fate. I will leave you with this thought. If it came down to it and someone had a gun to my head and demanded I confess to shaking my son or i would die….. I would leave this world and a wonderful family behind knowing that as sure as the sun shines, I would never do something so disgusting. Ultimately God and I know what happened that morning. God bless.
Thank you for posting. I’m so sorry for your ordeal, on many fronts. My best wishes to your son and your family. I’m glad you are there to care for him and work with him, instead of in prison.
Stephanie’s story is just like most. Vaccines were given, the child is inconsolable because the brain is hemorrhaging. There is no signs of abuse, no witness of abuse. She is found guilty without an ounce of proof. Where is the INTEGRITY of the Medical professionals? How can they destroy so many lives. This is world-wide HUGE problem. To call vaccines “protection” to begin with is insane.
The Medical Association declared that Retinal and Subdural hemorrhaing called for a diagnosis of SHAKEN BABY. MANY experts say it is junk science and has not been proven. The Medical Assoc. is the one to correct this false diagnosis, but that probably wont happen because VACCINES are the true culprit in most cases. They make too much money from the damage caused by them. Thousands of INNOCENT people are in prison because they FAIL to REVEAL the TRUTH. The vaccine package insert says they can cause brain hemorrhaging and they do more often than people think because that too is hidden from public
Well, OK. Thank you for not attacking individuals.
Sue, not posting the truth makes it a bias website and what is being posted about the stephanie spurgeon case above is lies…u should allow others to post the truth and rebutt the falsehoods..the medical evidence did not support anyone else doing this to this child..and yes I was there from day one from jury selection to the end and am not a family member of either family..if u want a true website than remove the lies not the truths..don’t be bias and allow someone to distort the facts of a case!!!!
Thank you, Ms. Sue, for the links.
I was wrongly accused of shaking my 5 week old newborn. I lost custody for 14 months. I recently won my appeal to have my record expunged. Prior to this, I worked as a child abuse prevention specialist. A false claim of SBS has turned my world upside down!
Thank you for commenting, Laura. I’m glad you have come out of it, but I’m very sorry your child missed so much in the first year. Best wishes to you and your family. I hope your experience gives you the chance to have some impact on the well-intentioned but misguided people responsible for these over-zealous accusations.
Stephanie Finley-Spurgeon is a dear friend of mine who has been wrongly accused, prosecuted, and convicted a crime that she did not commit. Our goal is to raise funds to help pay for her costly appeal process and to bring this horrible injustice to light so that it will not happen to someone else.
For nearly 18 years, Stephanie ran a state licensed in-home daycare center in the state of Florida. She was very well respected in her field and was looked upon by the state to act as a mentor to other people starting an in-home daycare. In all of her years, Stephanie only had one minor complaint that was investigated and determined to be an unfounded complaint. All parents loved her. All the children that she watched (most of which were developmentally and physically challenged) loved her.
In 2008, Stephanie took in a new child – a one year old little girl. Just days prior to coming to Stephanie’s house for her first day, this little girl had received several vaccinations. As always, Stephanie carefully documented this child’s first day in her house. The child was fussy, wouldn’t eat, did not want to lay down to rest, did not want to play, and did not want Stephanie to leave her sight. According to Stephanie, for children this young this is typical of their first day in a strange environment. She even called the grandmother to let her know the baby was a bit fussy, but she would try to put her down again for a nap. Finally, the little girl decided to rest. Stephanie figured she had to be tired. She left her to sleep, but continued to check on her.
That afternoon, the grandmother returned to pick up the child. The baby did not want to get up, but again, as fussy as she had been the earlier part of the day, Stephanie did not find this unusual. Later that evening, the little girl’s grandmother called Stephanie and said that she was going to call 911 because the baby was unusually fussy and unconsolable. She asked if there was anything that happened at Stephanie’s that she should tell the paramedics. Stephanie pulled out her daily logging notes and did not see anything out of the ordinary. The baby was taken to the hospital. The grandmother called later that evening and said that everything was fine and that they were back home. She said they would just keep the baby home for the next day or two because she might have some sort of “bug.”
Several days later, the police showed up at Stephanie’s house and arrested her for aggravated child abuse. One week later the baby died and Stephanie was charged with first degree murder. They said that the baby died of shaken baby syndrome – a brain bleed. There were no bruises, no bumps, no neck injury, no broken bones, no scratches, just a brain bleed that really could not be explained. It was simply a “theory” that it “could” be shaken baby syndrome despite the fact that scientists have proven that the amount of force that it would take to shake a child hard enough to cause the brain enough injury to bleed in the manner that this child’s did cannot physically be done without causing severe bruising, neck injury, and likely crushed ribs.
The science did not add up, but that did not stop prosecutors from finding their paid experts to say that it was “in fact” shaken baby syndrome. In fact, one of their experts, just months before taking his place on the stand and telling the jury about shaken baby syndrome, was on a PBS Frontline special talking about how shaken baby syndrome is usually a disease or undiagnosed underlying disorder and that MANY innocent people go to prison. Here is a link to the show: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-child-cases/ There is other scientific research that shows a more than casual link between these brain bleeds and vaccinations (check out the videos posted).
Stephanie was the only person who was investigated. Stephanie did not hurt this child. She spent all of her money – her and her husband’s life savings – to pay for her defense. Unfortunately, it was not enough. She was found guilty of manslaughter and is scheduled to be sentenced soon. Her sentence will likely be 15 years in a maximum security prison. She has lost her life. Her children have lost their mother. Her husband has lost his wife. Her mother has lost her daughter. We have lost our friend.
Please help us prove Stephanie’s innocence. Just think of how easily this could have been you. All that it takes is for a sick child to have been in your care. It could even be your own child. Research how many innocent parents, grandparents, nannies, and baby sitters have been wrongfully accused and convicted of this. It is sickening.
Half of what you state about what happened that day is not true. Spurgeon did not call the grandmother that day. The grandmother never called her back after picking up her comatose granddaughter later that evening. By 3:30, within an hour after she was picked up at the daycare, she was in the local ER, unresponsive and with severe internal head injuries that would later show that she had been abused within hours before arrival. SS is also now divorced. You ask to help prove her innocence. She refuses to proclaim it herself. Her first lawyer even resigned the case.
Anytime Shaken Baby Syndrome is suspected, there are certain assumptions. One of those is that the triad is always related to shaking, and the the last person with the baby is guilty. That means that the situation is not well researched. And the police and prosecutors have a vested interest in encouraging people to believe their version. Keep an open mind: Stephanie is not allowed to proclaim her innocence by our court system. And there are all sorts of reasons for a lawyer to resign.
This blog site is in support of people who have been accused of abuse by shaking based on the classic model, which I believe is flawed. While I acknowledge that abuse CAN cause the triad, I have also seen many cases in which the triad resulted from other causes.
I do not want this site to be a dangerous place for innocent people who face abuse charges. Therefore, I have not approved all comments submitted on this thread.
I apologize to those who must feel unheard. If you’re mourning the loss of a child, please accept my condolences. Nothing any of us can say or do will fill the hole in your lives.
Again another website that just wants to post for the people who claim to be innocent and post distorted facts of the truth! I was there from day 1 and what they are posting to get support is NOT the truth or facts..I am not either parties family memeber either..
More than 1/2 is not the truth, I was in that court from jury selection…they had medical people on that jury also…I am not a family memeber of either..I was unbias and there is nothing that proves anything or anyone but stephanie commited a crime against this baby!
As you can see, I’ve gone ahead and approved a few comments from the other side that did not contain further attacks on individuals. -S.
Sad in Pinellas County,
You are completely mistaken with your response to this person above writing. I was on the phone with Stephanie when Baby Maria’s grandmother called early that evening and I was at Stephanie’s home that night when grandma called back to say everything was fine. I won’t talk about the other stuff as I was not present (like yourself).
I still cry almost daily due to this this travesty. So many wrongs in this case and it could be completely medical. So many people these days just point the finger and blame when in reality there may be no one to blame.
Oh, and another thing, her first lawyer did not resign her case. Shaking my head.
Sue I am sure you remember me, Sean O’Geary’s mother. You are more than welcome to post our story if you would like. We are still fighting 14 years later. Sean is doing well, he has been doing woodworking – Beautiful work he is an amazing artist, also going to school and getting his 4 year degree. Keep in touch and if I can help, you know I will. Nancy O’Geary-Smith
Thank you, Nancy. Of course I remember you. Thank you for being in touch. I’m so glad you’re still fighting, and that Sean’s making what opportunity he can out of the tragedy.
Your family has put up a good page about his story, which I’ll just post the url to right here: http://www.sbs-project.com/aboutus.html
Here is another heartbreaking story and this mother is making changes .. She would be good to get in contact with
Her baby was taken away at 5 weeks of age!!!
Audrey Edmunds has become a dear friend of mine, even though I have never met her face to face. Bless these people!
Looks great Sue! I look forward to reading more!