Babysitter faces jail for murder after baby she admitted shaking 35 years ago dies of brain damage

Terry McKirchy was handed a plea deal that saw her serve only weekends in jail when the incident took place in 1985

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 27 July 2021 15:21
<p>Terry McKirchy, 59</p>

Terry McKirchy, 59

Leer en Español

A babysitter who shook a 5-month-old baby so severely that he suffered permanent brain damage in 1985, has been charged with murder following his death aged 35.

Terry McKirchy, aged 59, is awaiting extradition to Florida from her home in Sugar Land, Texas, after a judge in Broward County charged her with first-degree murder.

The babysitter originally pleaded no contest — neither guilty or not guilty — to attempted murder in 1985 and denied injuring Benjamin Dowling , who died in 2019 following a life with severe mental and physical disabilities.

Although two years had passed since his death, medical examiners in Florida agreed that his death was the result of those injuries sustained by the shaking at the age of five months.

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

Rae and Joe Dowling, Benjamin’s parents, said in a statement on Monday that their son never progressed after his injuries, and was dependent on his family and others. It did not mention the charges against Ms McKirchy.

“Benjamin never crawled, fully rolled over, walked, never talked, never fed himself, he never enjoyed a hamburger or an ice cream cone, he could never tell us when he had an itch or anything hurt,” the couple said. “When he cried in pain, we as a family and caregivers had to guess as to what was wrong and hope that we could satisfy his need.”

The babysitter told The Miami Herald in 1985 she was innocent, but accepted a plea deal allowing her to only serve weekends in jail until the birth of her third child. She was also sixth months pregnant at the time, and was facing 12 to 17 years behind bars for attempted murder and aggravated child abuse.

It was not clear if she had a lawyer on Monday.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.