Parents’ Nightmare: Babysitter’s Secret
The saga that I have endured throughout the past twenty years is a good example of all that is wrong with our legal system and the people who are charged with carrying it out.
On Saturday evening, September 24, 1994, as was customary, I returned home from work on my 2-10:00 P.M. shift at the Grinnell Corporation in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I relieved the babysitter and assumed that all was well. I’d had a long day at work so I dozed off on the sofa with my stepson, Kyle. At about 1:00 A.M. my girlfriend, Pamela, returned home from an outing with her mother, Bonnie, and some friends. I woke up and decided to check on my other stepson, 8-month-old baby Jordan.
I thought it odd that the baby was in the upstairs room because he was usually in the downstairs playpen. Maybe the babysitter took him upstairs before she left, I thought. I ascended the 13 steps leading to the second floor of our apartment. I was stunned to find baby Jordan unconscious and blue. In a frantic response, I brought baby Jordan downstairs and yelled for Pamela, Jordan’s mother, to call 9-1-1. Untrained as I was, I still attempted to administer CPR on Jordan. Pamela was standing next to me with the phone. She waited several minutes and rushed outside to see if she could spot any sign of an ambulance. She came to my aid, put the phone to my ear so that I could speak with the operator about baby Jordan’s condition.
The first to arrive at the apartment were two police officers from Manheim Township Police Department. Officer John Wettlaufer took over the administration of CPR by first removing baby Jordan from the seat of the chair where I, in my untrained condition, had placed him on the floor to continue to administer CPR. Unfortunately, Baby Jordan remained unresponsive to all attempts to revive him.
Baby Jordan was transported via ambulance to Lancaster General Hospital where unfortunately all further attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at 3:40 A.M. It appeared to be a case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the cause of death recorded was “cardiac arrest.”
Pamela and I were questioned closely by detectives. This was the result of the physicians at Lancaster General Hospital having notified the coroner and stating that the baby’s death was suspicious due to certain bruise-marks on the baby’s lower chest and abdomen. Baby Jordan had a mark on his face, which was the result of his bumping his head against a hot iron that was thoughtlessly placed on the floor of a friend’s house during a visit, but other than that, all reports about baby Jordan’s care were positive.
The police would later write in their report that the home was well kept and neat; the refrigerator and cupboards were well stocked with food.
After agreeing to go to the police station, Pamela and I were separated and intensely interviewed by detectives. Particularly, I was subjected to hours of interrogation. I had little to eat.
I was devastated about baby Jordan’s unforeseen death. I was emotionally drained. After hours of intense questioning, the lead detective in the case, Detective Raymond E. Solt, typed up a version of what he purported that I stated had happened. In my experience with legal matter, and trusting that this was a police officer, I signed the document without first reading its content. I signed in the manner that Detective Solt indicated, not knowing that I had just signed a confession detective to first degree murder.
Detective Raymond E. Solt is well known for his role in the investigation of the Lisa M. Lambert case. Lambert is the young teen who was accused of killing Laurie Show, a sixteen-year-old who lived in Lampeter Township, Lancaster County. The case received national attention when a federal judge ordered Lisa M. Lambert released in April 1997 after finding her trial was infected with numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct. Of Raymond E. Solt, the federal Judge, Stewart J. Dalzell, found his testimony “fantastic.” The judge further believed that he (Raymond E. Solt) made alterations to Lisa M. Lambert’s alleged confession. There were some interesting similarities between the Lambert case and mine. Some of the same principals were involved in both prosecutions.
Detective Solt took both the statements which he later went on to label as “confessions,” in both cases he made them sign each page of the type-written manuscript in bold cursive writing.
The case had many irregularities from the start and it followed through during the entire case from the investigation part to the prosecution. For example, Dr. Barry Walp, the County Coroner who was summoned to Lancaster General Hospital to examine baby Jordan, it’s worth noting, that he did not speak with me or Pamela or any of our friends and family whom arrived at the hospital to offer support to us, the grieving parents.
He noticed some small marks on baby Jordan’s lower chest and abdomen. The LGH report indicates that there were 11 in number and appeared “brownish/purplish” in color. Walp said to police investigators. “The bruising were not from tonight, but from possibly a couple of days ago.” In other words, they were in the stages of healing and could not have been caused by CPR being performed the night that baby Jordan died. In Detective Leed’s report, he was told by the medical examiner, Dr. Ross, “There are 16 healing bruise marks on (Jordan’ s) chest and abdomen... The injuries could have occurred within three to 24 hours of death.” Yet, conveniently for the prosecution’s case, at my preliminary hearing Dr. Ross testified that the bruises on the child’s abdomen were “fresh” and he described their color as being “reddish-brown. He went on to state that the child’s death was due to “blunt chest and abdominal trauma.” Based on Dr. Ross’s testimony, which was not challenged by any expert for the defense because there weren’t any, I was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
As stated at the start, my case represents all that is wrong with our legal system—particularly, when it comes to a defendant with little to no financial means by which to hire powerful attorneys and experts to rebut the state’s case.
It is very important to note that at trial Dr. Ross testified that baby Jordan died of blunt force trauma. However, the autopsy report did not reveal any indication of child abuse by way of fractures, healing or fresh, there was no tearing or lacerations of the baby’s skin. There was no obvious swelling or edema associated with a repetitive beating as was the state’s theory. This begs the question—why? Why would the Coroner make such a determination of facts without speaking with the parents about the baby’s condition prior to his death? Why would Dr. Ross first say the bruises on baby Jordan were healing and then at the preliminary hearing say they were fresh? Why, if I beat the baby repeatedly with my fist while the baby hung from one arm wasn’t there any evidence at all of broken bones, swelling or dislocation of the infant’s shoulder? Which one would expect if the state’s theory is to be believed.
At some point Dr. Ross testified that baby Jordan received a beating equal to being hit by a truck traveling at 30 miles-per-hour. How can it be possible that a 235 pound man supposedly grabbed an 8-month-old baby, held him by one arm and beat him with a closed fist in a state of rage, then switched him to the other arm and continued to beat him as was the state’s theory, and all you can find is a few small bruises? This is humanly impossible and a clear work of fiction by the state with the help of Dr. Ross and aided by the incompetence of my defense counsel. The facts in this case do not support a conviction of first-degree murder or any murder period. This case must be reversed and justice must prevail.
Finally, and most importantly, twenty years later, even though we aren’t together, I still have the full support of Pamela, Jordan’s mother, and Bonnie, the grandmother of baby Jordon, who champion my innocence.
I remain suffering this horrible “miscarriage of Justice” every waking day and night, wrongly convicted of a crime I didn’t commit; especially, as a parent, I know I made every effort to save my son’s life.
If this is not the most vicious form of cruel and unusual punishment, I don’t know what is. I wait for the support I need to prove my innocence once and for all.
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The Voice and Face of the Nation of Prisoners, I am Bryant Arroyo, at SCI-Mahanoy
Copyright: 2014 Bryant Arroyo
—PrisonRadio.org, March 7, 2014
Bryant Arroyo #CU-1126
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