Forsyth woman arrested for baby’s death searched internet for ‘shaken baby syndrome,’ police say | Public Safety

DECATUR — Taylor D. Burris, the Forsyth woman facing preliminary charges she inflicted fatal injuries on a seven-week-old baby by shaking it, lied at first about what she had done and was Googling “shaken baby syndrome” as the tiny girl lay dying in the hospital, police report.

A sobbing 24-year-old Burris appeared in court for a bond hearing Wednesday where her bail was set at $250,000. She is being held in the Macon County Jail on charges of causing an aggravated battery to a child resulting in death, involuntary manslaughter and endangering the life and health of a child.

A sworn affidavit signed by Sgt. Roger Pope with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office said Burris had been babysitting Maren Gallagher from Bement on May 17 when she claimed the baby was hit by a softball and started crying. The baby would die in HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield at 3:11 am May 18.

Pope said Burris’s story about the baby gradually falling more and more ill after being hit by the ball didn’t add up, and wasn’t borne out by subsequent medical examinations showing bleeding and injuries inside the baby’s head. Working with the Department of Children and Family Services, police sent copies of autopsy reports, photos and reports to Dr. Jill. C. Glick, a professor of pediatrics and a child abuse expert based at the University of Chicago School of Medicine.

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Dr. Glick would conclude in her preliminary findings that these injuries were caused by a violent car crash or shaken baby syndrome,” Pope said. Dr. Glick would then indicate that since there was no known car crash, she strongly suspected shaken baby syndrome.”

When police re-interviewed Burris, she gave a new version of her story: she said the child had indeed been hit by a tennis ball but that didn’t account for her injuries. Instead, Pope said, Burris admitted to shaking the baby when she wouldn’t stop crying after the ball hit.

“Taylor admitted she had to tell (the baby’s mother) and police that a softball hit Maren because after she observed Maren’s health declining, she needed a more probable means to account for the significant injuries Maren had sustained,” Pope added.

Pope then warned Burris police had obtained a search warrant for her phone. “Taylor admitted that she had ‘Googled’ information about ‘shaken baby syndrome’ the evening that Maren was in the hospital and lay dying,” Pope added.

Pope said the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death also pointed to neglect by the way Burris had acted once she realized the baby was becoming gravely ill.

“Taylor admitted the incident occurred around 10: am but didn’t call EMS until 2:05 pm,” said Pope. “When on the phone with dispatch, Taylor said that the infant had been in an unresponsive and impeded or apneic breathing state for 20 minutes before she called EMS. This was clearly neglectful behavior.”

Macon County Circuit Court Judge Rodney Forbes, Wednesdays bond hearing, went with the recommendation of Macon County State’s Scott Rueter in setting Attorney, and Rueter told the court it wasn’t easy to come up with an appropriate amount.

“Judge, it’s a difficult one because Ms. Burris has no priors but (this case) involves the death of a very young child,” said Rueter.

“She has strong ties to the community and I think she was ultimately honest with the police in terms of what happened, so I am going to recommend $250,000.”

Chief Public Defender Michelle Sanders had argued for bail set at $150,000, and said that reflected Burris’s strong local ties. “She has numerous family and friends here today to support her so she does not pose a flight risk,” noted Sanders, referring to a large group of mostly women watching intently from the public benches.

“And it’s not the kind of incident that is going to,” said Sanders, referring to the charges. “So we do think $150,000 is sufficient to protect the public and secure her attendance.”

Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon, in a news release Wednesday, said the final autopsy report on the baby is not done and the “official cause of death is still pending additional studies.”

All preliminary charges are subject to review by the state’s attorney’s office.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid