Neighbors shocked by mom's arrest
Sandra Scudder intends to plead not guilty to the charges, her attorney says.
By CORINA CURRY
Rockford Register Star
LOVES PARK - A Loves Park woman was charged Monday with first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 22-month-old daughter.
Sandra Scudder, 53, was arrested at her home on Grand Avenue. Esther Scudder, adopted from China, died June 14 from what authorities believe to be repeated blows to the head.
Loves Park police, the Winnebago County coroner's and state's attorney's offices, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated the death for two months.
"The key to an investigation in the death of a child is to eliminate any other cause of death, such as SIDS or disease to viruses and accidents except that which was caused by criminal behavior," Winnebago County State's Attorney Paul Logli said. "That is the process we have gone through. You eliminate other causes. You eliminate other suspects. And that's what led us to our decision this morning."
Scudder's attorney, Debra Schafer of Sreenan & Cain, said her client is innocent.
"We will be entering a plea of not guilty to both charges at the appropriate time," Schafer said. "This was a terrible accident. Sandy and her family are devastated by the charges. She certainly would have surrendered today if she had been given the chance."
Several neighbors said they saw squad cars pull into the neighborhood around noon. Scudder was taken to the Loves Park Police Department, then to the Winnebago County Jail.
She was released from jail late Monday afternoon after 10 percent of a $300,000 bond was posted.
Scudder's neighbors were surprised to hear that the case had escalated to murder charges. They said the investigation alone was shocking.
"It was a shock to the whole neighborhood," said Dennis Chaplo, who lives across the street from Scudder. "This is a quiet neighborhood. The police department is only a block away. When we'd see her outside, she'd be playing with her daughter and minding her own business."
Ann Ferrell, who lives two houses away from Scudder, said she couldn't believe it.
"I can't image Sandy doing this," she said.
"When you'd see them playing outside, they'd be having such a good time. It's hard to believe. Real hard. We've known the family for years, since we moved here in 1962."
Loves Park police were called to the Scudder home at 7:12 p.m. June 13.
They found Scudder administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Esther, who was struggling to breathe.
Police said the girl had bruises on her body.
The only other person home at the time was Esther's 5-year-old sister, Bethany.
DCFS removed Bethany from the home shortly after Esther's death.
DCFS spokesman Andy Martinez said the girl was not returned to the home.
The state's investigation is pending.
Autopsy results show that Esther died from blunt trauma to the head.
The penalty for first-degree murder is 20 to 60 years in prison.
The penalty for involuntary manslaughter is three to 14 years in prison.
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