Shaken:  A Diagnosis on Trial tells the true story of Stephanie Olsa, a suburban wife and mother convicted in 1997 of shaking a neighbor’s baby nearly to death. Shaken interweaves Stephanie’s story, the medical and legal history of SBS, and enough infant physiology to let the reader follow the medical testimony.

While I decide how best to publish, I’ve posted the first third of the book outline and a few chapters of different types. The full book proposal is available on request:  sue dot luttner at gmail dot com.


 1.  “I think she has a touch of the flu”

  • The infant Dinah seems to choke on a bottle and quit breathing in the arms of her infant care provider.

 2.  “The most incredible thing has happened to my niece”

  • The babysitter, Stephanie, is accused of shaking the infant.

 3.  “They must have got it wrong”

  • The police question Stephanie.

4.  “Never, not once”

  • Child-abuse prosecutor Rob Parrish teaches at an SBS conference that the symptoms of an infant shaking are obvious immediately in all cases.

5.  “My dad will raise whatever it takes”

  • Stephanie gets feisty at the county jail.

6.  “They must have found something at the hospital”

  • A physician friend of the author’s provides an introduction to infant brain physiology.

7. “Why don’t you tell me everything that happened that day?”

  • Stephanie meets her attorney, David Dodge.

 8.  “On the theory and practice of shaking infants”

  • Pediatric neurosurgeon A. Norman Guthkelch and radiologist John Caffey postulate infant shaking as a mechanism of producing subdural hematoma.

9.  “There would be no interval”

  • Dr. Dominic Sanfilippo testifies at the preliminary hearing.

10.  “Whiplash injury and brain damage”

  • The SBS research of the 1980s raises more questions than it answers.

11. “I told you not to take that baby back”

  • Stephanie’s marriage feels the strain.

12.  “No one would listen”

  • The mother of a shaken infant tells how she was turned away twice at the ER over several hours before her son stopped breathing in the waiting room.

13.  “Nobody can believe it”

  • Stephanie’s first trial ends in a hung jury; a second trial is scheduled.

14.  “The British nanny, it’s just like my niece”

  • The Louise Woodward case bring SBS to national attention.

15.  “It’s really interesting how it works”

  • A neonatal intensivist explains run-away cerebral edema.

16.  “California’s nightmare nursery

  • The history of child protection is shockingly short. The early days include social hysterias over pre-school child prostitution rings and organized cults performing satanic ritual abuse.

17.  “It’s possible the emphasized point is inappropriately diversionary”

  • The author begins reading the trial transcripts, despairs at the inscrutability of the medical testimony.

18.  “After a variable time, the infant will develop signs of cerebral irritation”

  • The author takes an SBS bibliography to the medical library.

And more.

6 responses to “Outline

  1. Solo

    We are currently enduring a battle to have a 5 year old girl returned to my neice, taken at 6 months when she had seizures that resulted in cerebral palsy and blindness. Medical records withheld preventing comprehensive second opinions, mum keep in the dark as much as possible, incompetent carer’s not addressing chronic constipation causing weightloss using unknown quantities of laxative and claiming a cure! Shaken baby/ blunt trauma with no evidence of external injury was the diagnoses, no adequate differential diagnoses, no adequate competent interpretation of bone scans, no admission of brain damage caused by inserting drains in the wrong place causing hemorrhage, falsifying records, non existent records, social workers relocated for identifying falsehoods and discussing them with the parent. CPS want guardianship, we need to bring our girl home, the system here in Queensland Australia is as corrupt and anti family as you could get, it’s been 4 and a half years we are all exhausted, 6 children scattered, mum jailed for 12 months and 14 more months of parole. Without enormous resources we wonder if we will ever see the end of the pain and anguish caused by having our lives literally dictated to by CPS and get our girl home and away from this corporate child grap for funding. We are about to take our chances with a judge and call CPS out on their inability to act in the best interests of our grandchild, mum needs her children, more than that these children need their mother! What a waste of so many lives, so many years!

  2. Hailey

    Was Stephanie founded guilty?

    • Yes, she was. She spent most of her son’s childhood in prison, but was released in time to have a few years with him before he graduated from high school.

  3. When/where will we be able to find this book?

    • Excellent question—-I’m working on it. You do know about Audrey Edmunds’s book, right? It doesn’t contain the medical detail, but her story is classic. The first chapter is eerily like the case that brought me into this arena.

      Thank you for your interest, and thank you for your own valuable blog.

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