Accused foster mother using baby burping as defense

August 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A foster mother is using baby burping as her defense in a child murder case in Fresno that could send her to prison.

The suspect will be held to answer on murder charges for the death of a newborn who died in her care. Investigators say Jovannee Reynolds took the baby to Children's Hospital Central California after she stopped breathing.

Doctors determined the child had suffered major head trauma that ended her life.

The baby's story is tragic for many reasons. Mikayla was placed in Jovannee Reynolds' care after prosecutors say she tested positive for meth at birth. But only days later, the baby was abandoned by her mother at a drug rehab center. Sadly, that wasn't the worst that would happen to little Mikayla.

Jovannee Reynolds is facing murder charges but walked into court with her family since she is free on bail.

Homicide investigators say in September of 2010 Reynolds was caring for a newborn when she told officers the child became non-responsive.

Instead of calling 911, police say Reynolds got ready then drove the infant to the hospital. Days later, the baby died.

Homicide Detective Andre Benson says when he interviewed Reynolds, she described a disturbing way she burped the baby. He says she demonstrated using a doll, and didn't support the newborn's head or neck.

"In the last 16 years, I've seen a lot as a police officer, and a lot investigating violent crime. I've never seen anyone burp a baby like that. And that burping technique that she used, to show me how she fed, burped Mikayla is something I will never forget. I've never seen that before," Benson said.

Dr. Phillip Hyden is an expert in the field of child abuse at Children's Hospital Central California.

"There's no other abnormality that we could come up with in our evaluation of this child that would be anything other than major trauma," Hyden said.

He described countless traumatic injuries to Mikayla that ultimately caused her entire body to shut down. Among them, he says she was shaken back and forth with great force.

"The only other thing I could think to cause this is like being ejected out of a motor vehicle going at a very significantly high speed or falling over a very high height of 10 feet," Hyden said.

Reynolds' attorney didn't present any theory about who or what may have caused Mikayla's severe injuries, but he says his client denies shaking the baby.

"I don't know and I think at least from our perspective, no one knows because from day one there's always been a disbelief that there is an act which Jovanee committed. She's flat-out denied it all the time," Reynolds' attorney, Martin Taleisnik, said.

But a judge ruled their is enough evidence to hold the foster mother to answer on several felony crimes. Jovannee Reynolds could serve 25 years to life in prison if she is found guilty of killing Mikayla Tabin.


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