Baby sitter not guilty in 4-month-old's death
Published: September 7, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - One woman cried in joy, and another in sorrow as jurors announced a not guilty verdict Friday evening.
Rochelle Blyden, 42, is not guilty, vindicating her of the allegation that she had been responsible for the death of a 4-month-old baby boy who jurors came to know as "Baby Jameson" during Blyden's trial in V.I. Superior Court this week.
While Blyden broke down in tears at the front of the court, shaking her attorney's hand, telling him, "Thank you, thank you," the baby boy's mother cried in the back, dumbfounded by the verdict that cleared Blyden on all charges.
Blyden's charges included involuntary manslaughter, aggravated child neglect, child neglect, child abuse, third-degree assault and use of a weapon during a violent crime.
Prior, she also had been charged with providing incomplete or false information, though V.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston, who presided over the case, acquitted her on the charge before the jurors made their decision Friday.
"What is not guilty? That's nonsense," said Marie Beauvoir, 22, who lost her only son, Jameson Beauvoir, on Feb. 10, 2012. "She killed my baby."
Jameson Beauvoir, who was described by his mother and those who knew him as a happy, smiling baby, died after suffering what an autopsy revealed to be a two-inch skull fracture and brain swelling.
The fracture and swelling were the result of blunt force trauma, according to territorial Medical Examiner Franciso Landron, though no one could identify who caused it or where that trauma came from.
"Rochelle Blyden did something to that baby. Unfortunately, the prosecution cannot tell you what. There's only one person that can tell you: Rochelle Blyden," Assistant Attorney General Edward Veronda said during the prosecution's rebuttal to the defense's closing argument in court on Friday.
Veronda was prosecuting the case alongside Assistant Attorney General Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte, while John Benham III defended Blyden.
Both the prosecution and the defense grilled witnesses who had seen Jameson Beauvoir with Blyden, his baby sitter at the time, prior to his death, and also witnesses who saw him after his death.
Neighbors described seeing Jameson Beauvoir that day, playing, sitting and drinking milk - with no unusual behavior. Blyden, who had watched Jameson Beauvoir daily for several months at that point, said that he seemed normal - perhaps a little sluggish - when she initially picked him up that morning.
Paramedics and police, however, described a much different baby, one that was limp and lifeless once he arrived at Schneider Hospital, where he was pronounced dead after a 911 call made by Blyden's neighbor the day of his death.
"She did not harm this child. She never would harm this child," Benham said during the defense's closing argument on Friday.
The jury, which included only one man, seemed to agree.
Despite the conclusion of the trial, however, many questions still were left unanswered.
All that was seemingly fact was that Blyden had watched Jameson Beauvoir, starting before 8 a.m. that day, and brought him to her neighbor's showing symptoms of distress at about 4:30 p.m. later that day.
How Jameson Beauvoir sustained his head injury, and also how he sustained other injuries, particularly damage to his rectum, remained a mystery throughout the trial.
V.I. Police Detective Maha Hamdan described his rectum as "bloodied and bruised" in court on Friday, and noticed other smaller bruises and scratches on his body.
Police conducted a sexual assault test, and, though it was negative, no one answered how the injury got there.
Nor did anyone answer how he sustained the injury to his head, though medical experts determined that someone likely took a blunt object forcefully to his head. His injuries were not consistent with being dropped, shaken or bumped, they said.
At what time Jameson Beauvoir sustained the injury also was left undetermined, though medical experts said that it likely was not more than a few hours before he showed symptoms described by Blyden as gasping for air, vomiting fluids and stiffening of the body.
Also, who Jameson Beauvoir had been in the care of prior to that day also went into question, as the defense wondered about Marie Beauvoir's three male roommates in her home, and the prosecution wondered about why Blyden left Jameson Beauvoir in the care of her boyfriend the day before the baby's death.
Police only questioned Blyden and Marie Beauvoir once, and they never questioned Blyden's boyfriend or the men who lived with Marie Beauvoir. They also never returned to Blyden's house after they learned the baby died from blunt force trauma, nor did they ever visit Marie Beauvoir's house.
Ultimately, too many holes existed in a tragic story, and no one could determine exactly what led up to the death of Jameson Beauvoir, who would have turned 1 year old this month.
- Contact reporter Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.