CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. >> A 10-year-old central Pennsylvania girl who allegedly caused a baby’s death by violently shaking him and throwing him into a crib was charged with third-degree murder.
The charges filed against the fifth-grader on Friday in Franklin County came after a coroner’s inquest into the death of 11-month-old Heath Ryder. The girl was released into the custody of her parents and ordered not to have unsupervised contact with children under 5.
"This is not a kid that has a mental health disorder. She does not have a personality disorder," the girl’s attorney, Jason Kutulakis, told The Public Opinion of Chambersburg. "She is not a bad person. She has no history of behavioral problems or school problems."
Also charged Friday was 56-year-old Dottie Bowers, who was babysitting both children at her home near Shippensburg, Pa., when the shaking allegedly occurred on July 29.
Bowers was charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly failing to seek medical care for the infant. Ryder died of traumatic brain injury at a hospital on Aug. 2.
"Our goal is to work with the police and find out what really happened," said Bowers’ lawyer, Joseph Caraciolo. "When Dottie has her chance, she will tell her story."
A judge immediately transferred the girl’s case to juvenile court, where records are sealed. Pennsylvania law requires murder charges to be initiated in adult court regardless of the defendant’s age, according District Attorney Matthew Fogal, who supported moving the case to juvenile court. The suspect was 9 when the baby was injured.
The Public Opinion reports that all charges were in line with a jury’s recommendations after a two-day inquest held in mid-April. The proceedings included testimony from police, the infant’s parents and another girl who was in Bowers’ care at the time.
The baby’s father, Mark Ryder, said following the inquest that he wanted the suspect punished for what happened to his son. He declined comment after charges were filed Friday.