By Lovepreet Dhinsa and Linhchi Nguyen
SACRAMENTO – In Sacramento County Superior Court last Friday, Kira Collins pleaded guilty to an amended felony complaint that she willfully and unlawfully produced great bodily harm and death to one-year-old “Baby R,” who was a victim of shaken baby syndrome.
The arrest and conviction followed an extensive investigation into the defendant’s social media Google searches that revealed searches related to shaken baby syndrome and related injuries, and “Will God forgive me for this sin?”
The incident occurred on Feb. 6, 2019, when Collins was a caretaker for Baby R, but when the parents picked up the child the parents immediately found the baby to be unresponsive. Baby R passed away the next day, and the UC Davis Medical staff confirmed that she died from severe internal and external impacts to her head and brain.
Collins had taken care of the child since August 2018, and, throughout the months, there was a history of Baby R displaying bodily injuries when she returned home from daycare. In addition, investigators found Collins’s Google search history to include numerous questions pertaining to symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.
Deputy District Attorney Catrina Ranum presented the factual basis for the court, noting that ever since Collins was entrusted with the child’s care, there “were numerous instances that were suspicious to the family.”
For instance, in December 2018, Baby R came home from daycare and could not use her left arm, and later on Jan. 22, 2019, Baby R displayed injuries on her left leg.
On Jan. 29, Baby R returned home throwing up. When the parents called the defendant to ask what was the matter, Collins stated that she must have been around a child who was sick.
“A particular importance that I want the court to hear is that on Jan. 30, there were a number of Google searches that…detectives obtained a search warrant to get from the defendant’s account,” Ranum said, and discovered searches like, “Why do your eyes roll back in your head when you pass out?” “What are the signs of brain swelling?” “Symptoms and causes to shaken baby syndrome. Abusive head trauma.”
“This was all on the 30th,” Ranum emphasized. “[Baby R] was sick for several days after the 30th, inexplicably growing up with crankiness and not feeling well—unbeknownst to her parents what was going on. They just thought that she was sick.”
Finally, on Feb 6, Baby R was taken once again to Collins’ daycare. The following morning, the child was completely healthy and happy. However, by 6:13 p.m., when the parents arrived to pick her up, they found Baby R to be “non-responsive” and “not stimulating to her mother’s voice,” according to Ranum.
The defendant denies any incidents occurring that day, but does admit that Baby R had been grinding her teeth 20 minutes prior to her mother arriving at the daycare. This prompted the mother to take Baby R to the UC Davis hospital.
Later that evening, the medical staff at UC Davis informed the parents that Baby R had sustained multiple injuries to the head, and hence she would most likely not survive. The next day, on Feb. 7, their child passed away.
Consistent with the injuries the medical staff described on Baby R, a medical examination and report were conducted, and they concluded that Baby R had extensive internal and external head injuries, specifically three major impacts on the posterior part of her head.
One of the major impacts to her head could not possibly be derived from a fall, and the injuries to the head were so significant that they caused additional damage to her brain.
Baby R had an acute depressed fracture on the right side of her occipital bone and a contusion on the two frontal lobes. Due to the severity of the bleeding in the brain, it caused her brain to move to one side of her head. These injuries to the head were in addition to two healing fractures on her knee and ankle.
The medical examiner ruled the death as a homicide and determined that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. It was also concluded that this incident had to have occurred hours before Baby R’s mother arrived at the daycare to pick her up.
After the day of the incident, the Google searches from the defendant continued. Numerous searches were conducted, such as: “What happens during a seizure?” “Ten signs of what happens during shaken baby syndrome.” “How can shaken baby syndrome be alleviated?” “Concussion care plan for babies.” “Symptoms and treatments of shaken baby syndrome.” “Is it possible to have a full recovery after shaken baby syndrome.”
On Feb. 14, the defendant’s search history included: “Is murder an unforgiveable sin?” and “Will God forgive me for this sin?”
The defendant pleaded guilty to all charges of willfully and unlawfully harming a one-year-old with unjustifiable means of suffering and harm, placing the child in an environment where her physical state was in danger, and inflicting physical pain on the child.
Both parties will return back to court on April 9 for Collins’ sentencing hearing. Judge Michael Savage told Collins that she should be prepared to submit herself to custody on that day.
Lovepreet Dhinsa is a junior undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Politics with a minor in Legal Studies. She has a passion for criminal defense law, and strives to go to law school to fight for indigent clients. As such, she is also involved in her university’s mock trial program and student government.
Linhchi Nguyen is a fourth year at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and English. She currently lives in Sacramento, California.
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