PHILIPSBURG–A woman charged with causing the death of a seven-month-old baby she was babysitting on March 20, 2015, was sent to prison for two years, it emerged Wednesday.
The Prosecutor’s Office held suspect Michelle Natalie Dre (27) responsible for the little girl’s death, which it qualified as manslaughter. For this crime the Prosecutor had called for a prison sentence of 12 years, during the July 3 hearing.
Baby Aneek Gumbs passed away March 23, 2015, presumably of a cerebral haemorrhage as a result of trauma.
A paediatrician at St. Maarten Medical Center filed a report with the Prosecutor’s Office, which launched an investigation in cooperation with the Police Force’s Youth and Vice Department.
The suspect, who initially was heard as a witness and was arrested in this case on May 29, 2015, denied any wrongdoing.
Led before the judge, the babysitter, nicknamed “Shorty,” maintained her position that she was innocent and that she had nothing to do with the death of the child who had been in her care. She pointed at the victim’s two-year-old brother as the culprit in this case. She claimed that while she was in the bathroom the little boy had taken his sister from the bed, had grabbed her and had banged her head against the floor twice.
An expert of Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) established that the victim had died as a result of external violence to the head which had resulted in a fractured skull. A fall from the bed could not explain the injuries, experts said.
The NFI rejected the babysitter’s scenario and stated that the injuries had been caused by a “violent, blunt impact of force to the head … whether or not in combination with shaking [of the victim’s body – Ed.]” According to the NFI, it is highly unlikely that a two-year-old would have been able to exert such an amount of violence.
The baby had been taken to the Baby Clinic for a regular check-up on March 17, 2015, and had been declared completely healthy at that time.
In its verdict, the Court said the defendant is the only person able to answer the question what actually had happened to baby Aneek on March 20, 2015. “However, she has made ever-changing statements, refuted by objective evidence, and, therefore, her statement is not valued in that regard,” the Court said. This resulted in the fact that the judge could not establish the actual circumstances under which the injuries were inflicted.
The Court stated that it had not been established on the basis of the case file and the court proceedings that the injury was caused by the “deliberate and intentional use of force” by the suspect or by someone else.
In this light, the judge also considered that the defendant appeared to have had no reason to exert violence, and neither had there been any evidence of stressful circumstances. That is why the suspect was acquitted of the primary charges, including manslaughter. However, she was found guilty of culpable homicide (“dood door schuld”).
As the babysitter had failed to give full disclosure about what had transpired, the Judge said he had no other choice but to conclude that the baby had sustained serious and eventually fatal brain damage while she was in the babysitter’s care.
The Court expressly stated that there was no evidence that the victim’s two-year-old brother had been responsible for inflicting the injury.
The judge said that the exact behaviour of the defendant, who was not a trained and skilled babysitter, could not be ascertained, but “in view of the seriousness of the injury” there must have been at least “gross negligence” on the part of the accused, who was held fully accountable for her acts. The Court, therefore, concluded that the defendant was to blame for the baby’s death.
His client was no “baby killer,” attorney-at-law Geert Hatzmann had said in pleading for the woman’s full acquittal. He claimed that all baby killings involve “cry-babies” and persons who lose their self-control and act in “blind” anger. Usually it concerns persons with severe personal problems, he explained.
He had stated in his pleadings that his client, who is known as “cheerful, friendly, helpful and caring,” does not fit this profile. Furthermore, the victim was a quiet baby who never cried, the lawyer had said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/89433-sitter-jailed-for-two-years-for-causing-baby-s-death