She says she hit the baby to dislodge food. Can we know the truth?
Statement Analysis is added to quotes in bold type.
'I am not a monster': Babysitter pleads innocence and claims she was saving baby from choking when she shook him to death as she's sentenced to 15 years
- Michelle Heale, 46, was convicted of manslaughter of toddler Mason Hess
- Heale, of Toms River, New Jersey, was looking after the boy in 2012
- Claims he hit his back to dislodge applesauce he was choking on
- Medical experts said Mason was shaken violently and had brain damage
- Mason's parents called Heale 'a horrible monster' at sentencing hearing
From Daily Mail:
A babysitter who shook a 14-month-old boy to death has been sentenced to 15 years in prison - but maintains that she is innocent.
Michelle Heale, 46, was convicted of the manslaughter of Mason Hess in April, despite claiming she was only trying to stop him from choking.
Heale, from Toms River, New Jersey, said that Mason had applesauce stuck in his throat, and she struck him on the back in the hope of dislodging it so he could breathe again.
Baby: Mason, pictured, died four days after the incident, which took place in 2012
After the sentence was handed down, Heale said: 'I did what I thought was best for Mason. I do not regret the choices I made that day. There is nothing I would change,' the Asbury Park Press reported.
She had testified that Mason went limp in her arms after she struck him between the shoulder blades.
During the trial, medical experts said that Mason bore the signs of being violently shaken, leaving him with extreme injuries to his brain, spine and eyes.
Mason was not killed instantly by his injuries, but died in a children's hospital four days later.
At one point in the trial, she was asked to use a toy child to re-enact the incident in August 2012n using a doll of a young child - a task which left her in tears.
Describing the moment, she said: 'I hit him hard on the back. I may have hit him harder than I should have,' Heale said through tears after demonstrating on the doll.
"I hit him hard on the back" is very likely to be truthful, within itself.
It does not mean that this is all she did, however. Most deception comes within truthful sentences, where the subject indeed tells us what she did, while leaving out additional information.
'I hit him about four or five times, and then I felt the applesauce come out. I felt it on my shoulder and I felt it on my shirt.'
'As I brought him down, his head snapped back ... he was completely limp. His eyes were open, but he wasn't doing anything. ... Everything was flopping.'
This repetition of "I felt" is interesting. It is repeated three times. She does not say, "I hit hit for or five times, and the applesauce came up." This is to avoid directly telling us what happened. We listen for the subject's own words to guide us.
With minimization, the number of "four or five" is increased. This is expected.
Here is where missing information exists:
"As I brought him down", is a spanning of time. In her mind, she must move across time, which is where we often find skipped over information.
Next, "his head snapped back" is passive language. Although she was the only person handling the baby, she says that his head snapped back without telling us who, or what caused his head to snap back. Passivity in language is often used to conceal identity or responsibility.
The description of being "limp" with eyes open is indicative of extreme shaking. This is where gray brain matter sometimes leaks from the ears, and is a signal that the baby is not likely to survive, but if so, will be acutely brain damaged.
It is here where the missing information lies.
A baby diagnosed with SBS has severe injuries, which cannot be caused by hitting on the back to dislodge something in the throat. The shaking that takes place is violent, powerful, often frustrated and angry shaking, in quest to silence a crying baby.
Jurors acquitted Heale of Mason's murder, but found her guilty of manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.
When she was found guilty, Heale broke down in tears and said 'I didn't do it' over and over. She spoke to her husband, who was in the hearing, and begged that he not let her children forget her.
Mason's furious parents also spoke at the sentencing hearing. His mother Kellie called Heale 'a horrible monster', and his father Adam said 'the devil has saved a special place in hell for you.'
Shaken Baby Syndrome is not a 'pre meditated' crime, but a crime of impulse where a temper lost, for but a moment, ends the baby's life.
It is why a lot of energy is put into educating parents about its danger: so that the parent will think of this when a moment of frustration of a baby crying hits, as it does to all parents.
Family: Mason is pictured above with his parents Kellie and Daniel. They called Heale 'a horrible monster' and told her she is going to hell
The Press also reported that he said he wanted her to be given the death penalty.
Manslaughter in New Jersey can be punished with up to 30 years in prison - but Heale was not given the full amount, partly because she had no previous criminal record.
She will be eligible for parole after just less than 13 years behind bars.