Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mother gets 15 years sentence for causing seizures in baby

Susana Reyes was sentenced to 15 years in prison late Monday night for inflicting serious injuries to her 7-week-old baby by violently shaking him three years ago.The 23-year-old Tyler woman was found guilty Thursday of injury to a child in 114th District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent's court. On Monday, the jury deliberated for about 10 hours before sentencing her.

She faced probation or five years to life in prison.Ms. Reyes, also known as Susana Solano, is an illegal immigrant and will most likely be deported because of the conviction, attorneys said.Eric Reyes, who turned 3 on Tuesday, Aug. 7, suffered permanent brain loss from the Sept. 30, 2004, incident.Several doctors from the Children's Medical Center in Dallas testified that they believed the boy suffered a collection of injuries that were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The boy had bleeding outside his brain, bleeding of his eyes and a fractured rib, consistent with someone squeezing him as they violently shook him.Pediatric neurologist Dr. Lloyd Mercer, who examined the boy at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, said the infant's injuries were inconsistent with him being shaken, and he believed they were caused by an accidental fall.

After the boy began having seizures at the hospital, Ms. Reyes told Mercer that she was walking with her baby when she tripped over a cat and fell and the boy hit his head on the carpeted floor. The infant was transferred from Tyler to Dallas because of the seizures.

Registered Nurse Mary Kern said when Eric was brought into Mother Frances Hospital, he was lethargic but began having frequent seizures.Alecia Conway, LVN, said the boy's mother and father did not notify the nurses of the infant's first seizure. They reported it to the medical staff only after he had a second and much longer episode. She said she saw the boy have eight seizures that each lasted 2 to 4 minutes. At first the infant cried, but by the eighth seizure, his body was worn out, his eyes failed to respond, and he didn't cry anymore.

Kim Rockwell and her husband David are Eric's foster parents and have been caring for him since he was about 3 months old. Mrs. Rockwell said he has had some behavioral issues but he now talks, plays and acts like a normal 3-year-old.A pediatrician testified earlier that the injuries could cause learning or concentration problems with the boy when he gets older.During closing arguments, Assistant Smith County District Attorney Richard Vance told the jury that Ms. Reyes nearly shook the life out of her 7-week-old baby.

Instead of panicking, she decided to plot how she was "going to get out of it."He said the fussy baby was relieved when he saw his mother there to make everything better. Soon that relief turned to terror when the mother picked him up and shook him. When he woke up in the hospital, he began seizing uncontrollably, Vance said."That's more pain in 24 hours than most people will go through in their entire life," he said. "A lifetime of pain calls for a life sentence.‚ÄĚDefense attorney Robert Bennett said although the jurors were supposed to separate their emotions from the evidence, it was impossible to do in the case.He said someone became upset with the child and reacted; it was not someone plotting out what they were going to do, he added.

Bennett asked the jurors to sentence his client to 10 years probation. The baby no longer has seizures and is a happy, healthy boy who calls the Rockwells mommy and daddy, he said. Ms. Reyes has lost her son, has a felony conviction and will be deported, he said, asking for mercy."She lost her child because she seriously injured him," Assistant District Attorney Jason Parrish said. "She lost her child the second she decided to grab baby Eric and shake him."He said the baby, who could not protect himself, has permanent brain damage and will be affected by what his mother did for the rest of his life.

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