An ex-babysitter in Texas is facing a first-degree murder charge after the man whom she shook as a baby died after 35 years of struggling with the permanent brain damage caused by the incident.
The woman, now 59, Terry McKirchy from Sugar Land, was arrested on July 2 following an indictment of a first-degree murder charge earlier this month by a grand jury in Broward County, Florida, nearly two years after her victim, Benjamin Keith Dowling, passed away, reported by Local10.
Dowling died on September 16, 2019, in Manatee County at 35 years old. By September 27, an autopsy report concluded he died because of “sequelae of abusive head trauma.”
Dowling was born perfectly normal on January 13, 1984, in Tampa. But at 5.5-months-old he was sent to be under the care of the then 22-year-old babysitter McKirchy at her home in Hollywood.
Soon after, his parents noticed he had trouble breathing and as they took him to a hospital, doctors diagnosed that the baby was suffering from damaged blood vessels in his brain. They suggested the injuries were caused because Dowling had violently been shaken.
McKirchy initially denied committing any crime, claiming that the injuries occurred because the baby fell off the couch, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
McKirchy was subsequently sentenced to 60 days in jail and probation after pleading no contest in June 1985 to attempted murder and aggravated battery of a child.
“I know I didn’t. My conscience is clear. But I can’t take care of it anymore,” McKirchy told The Miami Herald in 1985 of why she took the deal. “I am six months pregnant. You wouldn’t believe what this did to my family.”
Dowling, meanwhile, was left with terrible physical and mental disabilities. Until his death at home in Bradenton, the man had spent his entire life eating via a tube.
“Benjamin never crawled, fully rolled over, walked, never talked, never fed himself, he never enjoyed a hamburger or an ice cream cone,” the Dowlings said in a statement. “He could never tell us when he had an itch or anything hurt. When he cried in pain, we as a family and caregivers had to guess as to what was wrong and hope that we could satisfy his need.”
According to Local10, Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor released a statement saying that considering the passage of time between the injuries sustained and the death of the victim after an autopsy, forensic experts ruled Dowling’s early death at the age of 35 “was directly caused by the injuries from 1984.”
“The facts speak for themselves and this case was presented to the grand jury, which determined that this was a homicide,” Pryor said.
McKirchy could face life in prison if convicted.