Baby Sitter Faces Murder Charges 37 Years After Shaking 5-month-old Baby in Anger

Babysitter Terry McKirchy, 59, is charged with murder 37 years after she shook a five-month-old baby in anger. The South Florida-based woman, then 22, is arrested from Sugar Land in Texas and charged with first-degree murder for violently shaking little Benjamin Dowling when his parents were away for work.

Dowling died at his home in Florida nearly two years back after struggling for 35 years without being able to lead a normal life. His medical examiner said he succumbed to the brain injury of July 3, 1984, when he died on September 16, 2019. According to the medical examiner, he struggled with several mental and physical disabilities due to brain injury.

A Look Back at the Incident

Benjamin's parents -- Rae and Joe Dowling -- found him slightly blue, and he was struggling to breathe when they rushed home after the incident in 1984. His mother knew that something was wrong with her child after she noticed his clenched fists and limp body. Though she immediately rushed him to the hospital, he was diagnosed with Shaken infant syndrome.

After spending a month in the hospital, the baby Dowling returned home with a feeding tube in his stomach and metal rods in the spine. He had to go through several therapies later, including speech, physical and occupational therapy, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Benjamin Dowling
Benjamin Dowling suffered severe brain injury after his babysitter shook him violently. Dignity Memorial

The Impact of Shaken Infant Syndrome

His parents said he never led a normal life after the incident because he "never progressed in development beyond a five and a half months old baby". He never fully rolled over, crawled, walked, talked, or fed himself in his life. He was not even able to enjoy an ice cream cone or a hamburger like after children.

"Although he lived to be 35 years old, the life we would have lived as a family was forever altered. We cherish our time with and memories of Benjamin, and we continue to support him through our belief that there should be justice for Benjamin," they added.

At first, McKirchey denied the charges as she claimed that the baby fell off her couch. But then, she was found guilty and was charged with first-degree attempted murder. At that time, she was six months pregnant. So, the court accepted her plea, and she was allowed to report to the jail only on the weekends. She spent her weekends in jail for three months and was on probation for three years.

Baby Boy Crying Child Tot Toddler
Representational Image of a baby crying. Pixabay

The Arrest of Babysitter Terry McKirchy

When Benjamin died, the office of the medical examiner tied the 1984 incident to his death. The babysitter is now facing a first-degree murder charge, and she could face life imprisonment if convicted.

"The passage of time between the injuries sustained and the death of the victim was considered by the forensic experts who conducted the autopsy and ruled the death was directly caused by the injuries from 1984. This case was presented to the grand jury, which determined that this was a homicide," prosecutors stated.

Shaken infant syndrome or abusive head trauma is a brain injury in infants that occurs when a babysitter or a parent violently shakes a baby in anger or frustration. It can result in severe brain damage or the death of the infant.