EVERETT — The night before, the baby was at home, sitting contentedly on the floor laughing and smiling.
She was asleep in her car seat when she arrived at the babysitter’s home in Marysville around 6 a.m. the next day, Feb. 26, 2015.
Something happened in the next four and a half hours that led to the infant’s death, according to court papers.
Doctors said the 4-month-old died from nonaccidental trauma to the head and neck.
On Sunday, a judge found that police had established probable cause to arrest the 22-year-old babysitter, Cheyanne A. Jarrell. She was taken into custody Friday for investigation of second-degree murder. Police said the arrest was made after detectives received lab results and other information from forensic scientists.
If the nerves in a baby’s neck are damaged, the child may stop breathing. In cases of nonaccidental trauma of the head and neck, those nerves are broken or detached when the head and neck is shaken back and forth or side to side, police wrote in court papers. It used to be called “shaken-baby syndrome.”
A doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital told Marysville police that the cause of the baby’s head and neck trauma most likely occurred within five minutes prior to the babysitter’s 911 call.
The call was made around 10:45 a.m. Feb. 26 after the girl stopped breathing. Jarrell reportedly described an unusual gasping sound, court papers said.
The baby was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett before being transferred to Harborview Medical Center. She was kept on life support for three days. The girl died Feb. 29.
Jarrell acknowledged that she was the only person with the baby in the hours before the 911 call, court papers said.
At the same time, she has denied any wrongdoing.
When she was arrested Friday, she reportedly told police: “I shouldn’t be in this situation. I didn’t do anything.”
Public defender Cassie Trueblood has been working with the woman for months since it became clear that she was a suspect in the child’s death.
“She has been nothing but responsible dealing with this,” Trueblood said after Friday’s arrest. “She maintains her innocence and wants her day in court.”
Trueblood pointed to a growing controversy among medical and legal experts surrounding “shaken-baby syndrome.” Some have been challenging the science behind the diagnosis, now often referred to as abusive head trauma.
Jarrell had been babysitting the infant for about two months. She was a family friend, court papers said. She also had a 4-month-old of her own. Court records indicate that the woman’s infant child was removed from her custody in March while police investigated the other baby’s death. The child was placed with her father.
The baby’s mother told police that Jarrell reported to her that the infant was fussy when she was at her house. That was not the case when she was at home, the mother told police.
The girl’s mother also told police she’d been thinking about finding a new babysitter because “I don’t want someone frustrated watching my baby,” court papers said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.