Woman sentenced in baby’s shaking death


Herald Writer

Dale Slater stood just feet away from his child’s killer Tuesday, but his thoughts seemed focused on love.

He scarcely looked at Sheri T. Reiser, 39, the Bothell-area day-care operator who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the March 31 abuse death of Slater’s 6-month-old son, Nathan.

Instead, Slater stood in Snohomish County Superior Court and spoke to the spirit of his slain child, the blue-eyed baby boy he and other family members now call "our angel."

He talked about his pride at being the child’s father and the horror of holding the boy to his chest as first life, and then warmth, drained from his small body.

"Son," Slater said, "don’t ever hold so much hate in your heart that you lose sight of why we choose to love in the first place."

The Everett man’s comments came moments before Judge Ellen Fair sentenced Reiser to 8 1/2 years in prison for what she called a "completely senseless but very deliberate act."

The "crime that never should have happened" deserved the maximum punishment under state sentencing guidelines, the judge ruled.

The boy was at Reiser’s in-home child-care center when he stopped breathing. An autopsy showed bleeding in his brain. Experts were prepared to testify the child was violently shaken, causing the small blood vessels in his head to break and leak blood.

As part of her guilty plea, Reiser admitted to getting "anxious" because Nathan was crying and to "recklessly" bouncing his head against her knee.

Although prosecutors accepted Reiser’s plea as factual, they also made it clear they believed the evidence showed more mistreatment than she admitted. She’d previously admitted to police that she’d "slammed" the boy on her knee and had "tossed" the child into a crib.

The result was tragic, Fair said.

She listened as the boy’s mother, Tammie, talked about what it was like to dress her son for the last time before his funeral, how she placed a baseball cap on the boy’s small head to hide incisions from the autopsy.

The boy was too small to run away from Reiser, who apparently was driven to take his life because of his crying, Tammie Slater said.

"Nathan was doing what God gave him, and it cost him his life," she said.

Reiser offered a tearful, halting apology.

"I wish I could take back the day," she said.

Reiser’s attorney, Jan Olson of Seattle, said there were "bitter ironies" in the case because his client had no history of legal problems, no complaints about her day care and had dedicated herself to caring for children.

She did not intend the boy’s death, he said.

Nathan’s family and their friends wore matching T-shirts at the sentencing hearing. The shirts featured the slain boy’s photograph and offered advice for preventing more deaths and injuries to children because of shaken baby syndrome.

"Never, never, never, never shake a baby," the shirts read.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commerical vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.