ADOPTIVE MOTHER CHARGED WITH SHAKING BOY TO DEATH

Relates to:
Date: 2003-02-27

The Lisbon Falls woman called 911 to report that the 22-month-old child wasn't breathing.

Author: JOSIE HUANG Staff Writer

Dateline: LISBON FALLS

A woman whose adopted baby boy died of brain injuries this month was charged with manslaughter Wednesday. Police arrested Sarah Allen, 29, in connection with the death of Nathaniel Jacob Allen, whom she and her husband had adopted from Guatemala last April.

Police said the baby died from violent shaking. "We believe she is responsible for the child's injuries, without getting into details with why we think that," said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for Maine State Police.

Allen's arraignment in Lewiston District Court is scheduled for today.

On Feb. 14, Allen called 911, indicating that the 22-month-old Nathaniel, the couple's only child, was not breathing. Lisbon police and ambulances arrived at the Allen's single-family home to find Allen alone with Nathaniel, McCausland said.

The boy was brought to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. He was then transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he died the next day.

State police began an investigation. They interviewed Allen, whom authorities say does not have a criminal record or child protective history with the state, as well as her husband, Jeremy, and other individuals.

McCausland did not know what adoption agency the Allens used. But a spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, which is responsible for licensing adoption agencies in Maine, said Nathaniel was placed by an out-of-state private agency.

In the meantime, the Allens scheduled a memorial service for Nathaniel last Friday at the East Auburn Baptist Church. An obituary provided by the family said the child died after "sustaining life-threatening head injuries from an accidental fall." Supporters of the family were asked to give to the Nathaniel Adoption Fund at the church in lieu of flowers.

Police arrested Allen at her home Wednesday morning and brought her to Androscoggin County Jail. Bail was set at $100,000 property or $25,000 cash.

Two calls to the Allen residence on Wednesday were not returned.

McCausland said state police usually see about one case of shaken baby syndrome in Maine each year. Victims are usually younger than Nathaniel - under a year old - and most survive. "Most times it does not result in death but does result in long-term injuries to the child, including blindness and learning disabilities," he said.

Shaken baby syndrome has grown in profile in Maine over recent years. The Don't Shake Jake program, started in 1998 after 4 1/2-month-old Jake David Belisle was shaken to death by his baby-sitter, has helped to raise awareness and led to the passage of a law requiring judges to consider the age of a victim as an aggravating factor.

Staff Writer Josie Huang can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

jhuang@pressherald.com

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