A man who spent 3 1/2 years in jail charged with murder in the death of his 4-month-old son has been released from custody after prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the case because of insufficient evidence.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge John P. Winn went along with the recommendation and dismissed the case against Everett Bobbylee Quinn, now 24, on Jan. 14. The DA’s office sought the dismissal when two doctors whose medical opinions led to the charges changed their minds.
Quinn was arrested about a year after the death of his son, Heratio Wysinger, and had been held without bail in the downtown jail. Quinn and his girlfriend called 911 on May 19, 2009, to report that their son was vomiting blood in their Mack Road apartment and had become non-responsive.
Initially taken to Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, then to UC Davis Medical Center, the infant was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, due to insurance reasons, according to testimony at Quinn’s preliminary hearing. Heratio died at Kaiser Roseville on July 27, 2009. The Placer County coroner, Dr. Donald Henrikson, ruled that the boy died of brain disease brought on by blunt force impact and rotational injuries, which are associated with shaken baby syndrome.
Quinn could not be reached Thursday, and his attorney, Michael G. Bowman, who has since been appointed as a local judge, declined to comment.
Deputy District Attorney Donell Slivka provided a statement she read to the court the day of the dismissal that explained her office’s decision to ask that the case be dropped.
Slivka’s statement said prosecutors filed the case “based on the opinion of medical experts that the victim had suffered acute traumatic abuse at the hands of another.” Sacramento police determined that Quinn was the little boy’s caregiver at the time of his fatal injuries, “and based on the medical evidence presented, was responsible for inflicting the injuries,” the statement said.
According to Slivka, the physician who initially treated the boy when he was brought to the hospital “found he had suffered traumatic abuse.” Asked to review his records by defense attorney Bowman, the original treating doctor “changed his opinion as to the existence or timing of some of the injuries suffered by the victim,” the statement said.
The doctor “expressed a doubt as to whether the injuries were abusive trauma or caused by some type of disease and opined that the injuries to the victim were not acute,” Slivka told the court.
Prosecutors then sought “a further expert review,” Slivka said.
At Quinn’s Sept. 2, 2011, preliminary hearing, UC Davis neuropathologist Dr. Claudia Greco, who examined the baby’s brain after the death, testified that “this previously healthy child or infant had something devastating and catastrophic happen.”
In the later review of the records requested by the DA’s Office, Greco still believed the baby had suffered traumatic abuse. “However,” Slivka said in court, “she no longer believes the abuse was acute, that is, inflicted immediately before the victim was admitted to the hospital. Instead, her opinion is that the injuries most likely occurred two to three weeks before he was taken to the hospital.”
“Based on this evidence, it is the people’s position that we can establish that the victim died at the hands of another but there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the person who inflicted the injuries,” Slivka said. “Therefore, the people are asking to dismiss the case at this time based on insufficient evidence.”
Also at the preliminary hearing, Bowman elicited testimony in his cross-examination of Henrikson that X-rays of the boy did not reveal any fractures. Henrikson, who examined the body two months after the parents’ 911 call, said it was the evidence of a hairline fracture that led to his determination that Heratio died as a result of blunt force impact. The doctor testified such fractures “are not always detected by X-ray.”
The boy also suffered from brain and retinal hemorrhaging, Henrikson testified. Bowman questioned whether bleeding could have been caused by medical procedures undertaken three days after the boy was taken to the hospital to drain fluid from his brain.
“Sure,” the doctor testified, “if it was inexpertly done.”
Bowman, in his questioning of Henrikson, quoted a report from a treating physician at Kaiser Roseville that said there was no evidence of trauma or shaking. Henrikson said he disagreed with the assessment because the injuries sustained by the boy are ones “we normally see in abusive head injury.”
Quinn told Sacramento police shortly after the baby was taken to the hospital that he had been feeding Heratio from a bottle when the boy vomited up the blood. Quinn said he laid the baby down and yelled to his girlfriend to call 911, police Detective Jason Kirtlan testified.
Kirtlan said Quinn’s story stayed consistent when detectives interviewed him again after the death.