Woman Has Charges Dropped in Death of Baby Left in Her Care After 19 Years in Prison

Charges were dropped against an Ohio woman who spent 19 years in prison for allegedly killing a baby left in her care after new evidence was uncovered in her case, the Associated Press reported. Kim Hoover-Moore, 57, was found guilty in 2003 of killing a 9-month-old girl who a coroner said died of shaken baby syndrome.

A new assessment of evidence found that Samaisha Benson had a separate and older injury that could have caused the bleeding that ultimately killed her at Hoover-Moore's home day care, according to an affidavit signed by a former deputy Franklin County coroner earlier this year. Benson appeared to have sustained the injury days before Hoover-Moore noticed issues with the baby, according to a court filing requesting a new trial.

"I cannot conclude at the present time that pathologically the injuries suffered by Samaisha definitely occurred within the time window that Ms. Hoover-Moore was in charge of her care," Dr. Patrick Fardal wrote in the February 18 affidavit. "The acute changes all occurred within a 4-5 day window before her death."

Hoover-Moore could be released as soon as Thursday, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Charges Dropped After 19 Years in Prison
Kim Hoover-Moore was scheduled for release from prison after the case against her was thrown out based on new evidence, on October 21 in Columbus, Ohio. This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows inmate Hoover-Moore, convicted of murder and child endangerment in 2003 for the death of an infant girl who had been in her home daycare. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction via AP

Fardal declined to comment Thursday.

Franklin County Judge Carl Aveni granted the new trial request, vacated Hoover-Moore's conviction and ordered her immediate release.

Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack previously represented Hoover-Moore and recused himself. A different prosecutor dismissed all charges "in the interest of justice." The prosecutor and defense attorneys agreed in a court motion that the evidence at the time was sufficient to prosecute Hoover-Moore.

An attorney for Hoover-Moore said Thursday that justice had been done after 19 years.

"The medical evidence proves what Ms. Hoover-Moore has always said: She is innocent," Joanna Sanchez, director of the Ohio Public Defender's Wrongful Conviction Project, said Thursday.

Hoover-Moore's attorneys believe the case might be the first exoneration in Ohio involving a shaken baby conviction, according to data compiled by the University of Michigan's National Registry of Exonerations.

Nationally, shaken baby convictions have come under scrutiny as new evidence challenges the diagnosis, with multiple exonerations. In April, a California man was freed after 15 years in prison after prosecutors and a judge agreed that the scientific research underlying shaken baby syndrome has changed significantly in recent years.

The infant's father dropped the girl off at Hoover-Moore's Columbus home on November 29, 2002, according to Hoover-Moore's June motion for a new trial by attorney Kort Gatterdam.

After seeing the baby couldn't hold her head up and wasn't breathing properly, Hoover-Moore called 911. The baby was taken to the Columbus Children's Hospital where she was treated and diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome based on a CAT scan showing a skull fracture and internal brain bleeding. The girl died December 1, 2002.

Following a 2018 request for a new trial, Hoover-Moore's attorneys were able to access the victim's medical records, radiology images and autopsy reports, and a new analysis found evidence of an injury weeks or even months old.

Hoover-Moore's motion for a new trial also included police reports referring to domestic violence involving the infant's parents, among them a case in which the father struck the mother while she was holding another child, and in which the father shook that child to quiet her.

The new testimony indicated that "rather than the medical evidence pinpointing Ms. Hoover-Moore as the only possible perpetrator, any number of people who had access to Samaisha in the weeks or months before her death could have been responsible for her fatal injuries," according to the filing.

A message was left with a phone listing for Samaisha Benson's mother.

Murder Charges Dropped Against Ohio Woman
Charges were dropped against an Ohio woman who spent 19 years in prison for allegedly killing a baby left in her care after new evidence was uncovered in her case. Kim Hoover-Moore, 57, was found guilty in 2003 of killing a 9-month-old girl who a coroner said died of shaken baby syndrome. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images