Part I, Section I

Prosecutors build murder cases on disputed Shaken Baby Syndrome diagnosis


Mother acquitted of shaking a baby: ‘I would have committed suicide’

Part I, Section II

Doctors who defend shaking diagnosis dismiss scientific challenges


Prosecutor: ‘The public should know that this can kill’


The unsettled science of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Part I, Section III

Mother released from prison: ‘It hurts too bad to remember’


After five years in prison, a young mother is set free

Part I, Section IV

In Maryland, a baby collapses and a babysitter is blamed

Part I, Section V

Prosecutor to jurors: ‘Healthy babies just don't die’

Part I, Section VI

But that year, the case took a significant turn.


Babysitter once sentenced to 20 years in prison: ‘I’m not gonna say that I killed somebody’


A breakdown of the dismissed cases


Map: Parents and caregivers accused of shaking nationwide


Former medical examiner: ‘Alleged cases of pure shaking are unusual’

Part II, Section I

Doctors who diagnosed Shaken Baby Syndrome now defend the accused


Doctor who helped introduce the hypothesis behind Shaken Baby Syndrome: ‘I don’t think innocent people should be in jail’

Part II, Section II

A child abuse diagnosis raises questions, doubts


Accident reconstruction specialist: ‘We need to apply the science’

Part II, Section III

Engineers: Falls could be more dangerous than shaking


A biomechanical look at shaking


How much acceleration can be generated by shaking a 22-pound crash-test dummy

Part II, Section IV

Doctor: ‘What could be right about getting it wrong?’

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Shaken science

A disputed diagnosis imprisons parents

In Maryland, a baby collapses and a babysitter is blamed

You are reading one part of an investigative series on the disputed Shaken Baby Syndrome diagnosis that has put people behind bars.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Gail Dobson had opened a home day care when her youngest son was born and spent 29 years at a kitchen table covered with construction paper and finger paint, caring for neighborhood children and then their children.

In April 2009, elementary school teacher Kelly Ulrich made arrangements with Dobson about providing day care for her son, Trevor, who had been born seven weeks early with respiratory distress and had spent several weeks in intensive care, court records and trial testimony show.

Ulrich had known Dobson’s family for 20 years, and Dobson, then 52, had a strong reputation in the community. She volunteered at the fire department and at church cookouts and had led Talbot County’s child-care association. Her two sons were in law enforcement.

Rocking horses outside the home of Gail Dobson. Dobson used to run a child care business. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

When school started in August, Ulrich took 9-month-old Trevor — a chubby baby his father called “Squirt’’ — to his first day in day care. When the baby’s grandmother picked him up, Dobson said that Trevor had tried to pull himself into a standing position and had hit his face on the metal bar of a bouncy seat, leaving a small bruise below his eye.

In the car, Trevor started vomiting. He was still throwing up at his grandmother’s house, and Ulrich took him to the emergency room. A doctor diagnosed Trevor with dehydration and stomach irritation. Ulrich later testified that she didn’t mention the bruise on the baby’s face to hospital staff because Dobson’s explanation seemed “reasonable.”

Trevor stayed home sick the next day, but he returned to day care the following morning, Sept. 2.

That day, Dobson was caring for Trevor and three other children with help from her 74-year-old mother. Dobson testified that she found Trevor “dull” and not as active as usual. She said she fed him lunch at 1 p.m., then let Trevor crawl around and entertain himself in the living room.

Dobson said that when her mother left at 2:15 p.m. she went to prepare a bottle for Trevor. She noticed he had a dirty diaper, and when she tried to change him he crawled away and her carpeting got smudged. She said she pulled him back “by his leg.” Then she fed him, rocked him and put him in a crib.

Her husband came home at 2:45 p.m. and went out to the patio.

About 3 p.m., she said, she was preparing a bottle in the kitchen for another baby when she heard Trevor making “gurgling” sounds.

“I thought that Trevor was choking,” Dobson later testified. “I immediately picked him up and I gave him probably four back thrusts and he spit up a little bit.”

Dobson said she believed Trevor was still sick. But when he failed to respond, she called Ulrich and 911, and said she performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

At the hospital in Easton, doctors got Trevor’s heart to start beating again and had the baby airlifted to Children’s National Medical Center in the District. There, doctors found widespread bleeding in Trevor’s head, brain swelling and bleeding in the back of the eyes. Doctors also noted bruising just above Trevor’s right ear, about one inch long, a “small abrasion” on his left abdomen and bleeding in areas of his retina.

Trevor was taken off life support and died the following day.

D.C. deputy medical examiner Carolyn Revercomb performed an autopsy, documenting the internal bleeding and swelling as well as six contusions on Trevor’s scalp, ranging from one-quarter of an inch to one-half of an inch, a faint bruise on his back and one on his thigh. The retina in his right eye was detached. She ruled the cause of death as “blunt impact head trauma.”

Prosecutors concluded that Dobson — the last person with the baby — had abused him during both visits to her home. In November 2009, she was indicted on 11 charges, including second-degree murder, first-degree child abuse and first-degree assault.

“I was just dumbstruck,” Dobson told The Post. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

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