Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri The Honorable
Patricia S. Joyce, Judge
Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, Presiding, Karen King
Mitchell, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge
D. Witt, Judge
Shelley Richter ("Richter") appeals her conviction
of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree,
section 568.045. Following a jury trial, she was convicted
and sentenced to five years' imprisonment by the Circuit
Court of Cole County. On appeal, Richter alleges that the
circuit court erred in denying Richter's motion for
judgment of acquittal at the close of State's evidence
because there was insufficient evidence to support her
conviction. Further, she claims that the court erred in
submitting "disjunctive acts" in the verdict
director, giving the jury a "roving commission." We
affirm Richter's conviction.
and Procedural Background
victim, L.S., was born in January, 2010, a month premature.
However, he was thriving and, at his six-month wellness
visit, he met all expected milestones. Other than a
hospitalization in March 2010 for a respiratory virus and
other common childhood illnesses, he was a healthy baby.
There was no evidence that L.S. had suffered any significant
L.S. was about ten-weeks-old, he was placed in the care of
Richter, who ran a licensed child daycare from her home. On
August 19, 2010, L.S.'s mother ("Mother") took
him to daycare. She testified that he was alert and active
when she dropped him off at approximately 9:00 a.m.
to Richter's statements to police, shortly before 12:30
p.m. Richter picked up L.S. out of a walker in order to feed
him lunch. As she picked him up, she was in the process of
bringing him to her side and stepping backwards when another
child came up behind her and caused her to lose her balance.
Richter fell to the floor and, as she did, she lost her grasp
of L.S. who fell onto the floor. The floor was concrete
covered with linoleum. Richter said that she went to L.S.,
and that L.S. was on his right side and crying. She picked
him up, and L.S. stopped moving. She attempted to rouse him
by blowing in his face but L.S.'s head went limp and she
believed he had broken his neck. Richter called her neighbor,
Dawn Wilde, who worked from home and was the mother of
another child. Wilde came immediately and instructed Richter
to call 911. Wilde called Mother instructing her to come to
approximately 12:30 p.m., Mother received a phone call from
Wilde reporting that there had been an accident with L.S., an
ambulance was on the way, and Mother should come immediately.
When Mother arrived, L.S. was lying on the floor in the back
of the daycare. He was pale, his eyes were barely open, he
was making odd squeaking and moaning sounds, having trouble
breathing, and was moving his arms in a circular pattern.
When the ambulance arrived about 20 minutes later, L.S. was
placed on a backboard and transported to the local emergency
room at Capital Regional Hospital in Jefferson City.
Emergency room personnel immediately called for a life flight
transport to take L.S. to University Hospital in Columbia,
Missouri. L.S. was in serious condition with bleeding in his
brain, hemorrhaging in both eyes, and the lowest possible
score on the Glasgow coma scale. He was intubated to help him
Mother and L.S.'s father ("Father") drove to
University Hospital from Jefferson City. Dr. Craig Downs
("Dr. Downs") treated L.S. in the University
Hospital Emergency Room. Dr. Downs disagreed with the
"initial history" he had received, opining that the
type of injuries that L.S. was suffering were "not at
all compatible" with the fall as described. Dr. Downs
believed the injuries were caused by "abusive head
trauma" that occurred "very recent" to
L.S.'s arrival at the hospital. L.S. was admitted to the
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
next day, L.S. was seen by Dr. Nitin Patel ("Dr.
Patel"), a pediatric neurologist. Dr. Patel testified
that L.S. had slowed brain activity, especially on the left
side. A MRI scan showed a lack of blood supply to the brain
that would have happened within three days prior to the scan.
L.S. also had intracranial bleeding and optic nerve swelling.
Dr. Patel believed that L.S. "must have suffered what is
called a shaken baby syndrome or non-accidental head
Joseph Giangiacomo ("Dr. Giangiacomo"), a pediatric
ophthalmologist, also examined L.S. finding that L.S. had
bilateral hemorrhages in his eyes as well as an extensive
amount of blood in his eyes that ultimately necessitated
surgery. Further, it was Dr. Giangiacomo's opinion that
the injuries were not caused by an accident.
result of his injuries, L.S. developed Cerebral Palsy, is
developmentally delayed, is "more or less blind, "
and will require assistance for the remainder of his life.
jury found Richter guilty of endangering the welfare of a
child. The court sentenced her to five ...