Adoptive mother convicted of abuse

Relates to:
Date: 2006-06-27

A jury needed only about an hour to convict a Rochester Hills mother of first-degree child abuse Monday. The verdict ensures a several-year stay in prison for Tracey Ann Brosch, 44, who was charged with violently shaking her adopted baby.

Brosch showed no emotion when the verdict was announced. She is to be sentenced July 18, and the charge carries up to 15 years in prison.

The courtroom was heavy with emotion as several jurors appeared somber and a couple had tears in their eyes.

In the audience, Brosch's mother cried loudly, having to be pulled by family members out of the courtroom. In the public hallway, her uncontrollable weeping could still be heard inside as Brosch's soon-to-be exhusband stared forward.

Sentencing guidelines range from 36 to 60 months in prison, though Oakland County Circuit Judge Steven Andrews has been known to exceed guidelines in cases involving severe child abuse.

Brosch had earlier pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree child abuse, which carries up to four years in prison. But with guidelines ranging from probation to 17 months in prison, she withdrew her plea after Andrews indicated he would exceed those guidelines.

Prosecutors were willing to let her plead to second-degree child abuse because they wanted her to plead to terminating her parental rights, which she did, and because of the difficulty in getting convictions for first-degree.

The difference in the two charges is the intent to knowingly cause injuries as opposed to simply committing a reckless act, but not realizing the consequences.

"We always worry about the issue of intent," said Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Sara Pope-Starnes.

But the jury quickly decided that Brosch had indeed caused the injuries to 22-month-old Kaitlyn, who nearly died of brain injuries and swelling consistent with being shaken and struck in the head nine months ago.

Today, she is living in a "medically fragile foster home," said Pope-Starnes, The infant can speak only a couple of words and has just started to walk. Kaitlyn, who had been adopted from China at 10 months old, had been at that stage when her injuries occurred Oct. 28.

Brosch adopted after learning she cannot have children because she has Turner's syndrome, leaving her short one chromosome.

The jury of nine women and three men asked for the evidence but quickly reached a verdict.

Jurors told Oakland County Sheriff's Detective John Neph the evidence they regarded last and least was Brosch's demeanor, considering more the medical evidence and her unsatisfactory explanation of how the injuries may have occurred.

Defense attorney Richard Lustig portrayed police and doctors as ganging up on Brosch because of her inappropriate behavior - described as "nonchalant" and including laughter and casual joking during an intense family tragedy, by numerous witnesses - and jumping to a conclusion.

But Lustig could not overcome the medical opinions of the doctors, led by Dr. Mary Smith, a pediatric specialist from William Beaumont Hospital, who treated Kaitlyn.

"She was at imminent risk of death," Smyth testifi ed, detailing the subdural hematoma, massive retinal bleeding and massive brain swelling. "This just doesn't happen. In my 15 years of pediatric practice in dealing with hundreds and thousands of normal children who have had hundreds and thousands of normal daily accidents and normal illnesses and colds, this is not a normal experience."

Smith said with the injuries and without an adequate explanation, the diagnosis is nonaccidental head trauma, an adapted name for what was once called shaken baby syndrome.

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