2000-12-16 / Front Page

Father Sentenced In Baby’s Death

By Joan Ward George

Father Sentenced
In Baby’s Death

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced Monday that 29 year old Matthew Leggard, of Far Rockaway, was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison for violently shaking his six week old baby, Chyann Hulse, to death. The incident occurred last October 5, 1999 in the family’s Seagirt avenue apartment.

Leggard was convicted one month ago by a Queens jury of reckless manslaughter in connection with his daughter’s death. The jury trial was held before Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Buchter, who imposed sentence Monday.

The "Baby Leggard" case was in court for several weeks, with prosecutors calling for a guilty verdict on manslaughter charges that Matthew Leggard shook his infant daughter, resulting in her death by shaken baby syndrome. Leggard was reportedly home alone with his newborn daughter when the incident occurred. The child’s mother, Meredith Hulse, 21, was at work at the time of the occurrence.

Hulse testified during the trial that Leggard had phoned her at her job at approximately 3:30 p.m. the day of the incident and said the baby had stopped breathing. Both parents told police they called 911. Paramedics arriving at the scene found the baby with no pulse or heartbeat, but revived her and transported her to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. She remained there in critical condition and was soon after transferred to North Shore University Hospital Center in Long Island, where she died four days later.

During the trial a series of experts testified that it was their medical opinion that the child died of shaken baby syndrome. EMS personnel and physicians testified that the hemorrhages and swelling of the brain, which all proved fatal, are the classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. In addition, EMS said they found Chyann with finger marks across her chest, where she had been grabbed.

Leggard said during the sentencing, "I would like the court to know that I didn’t commit this crime. If I would have won this case I still would have lost. I would have lost out knowing I couldn’t be a father to my child. It is a tragedy for everyone in my family."

Judge Buchter said to Leggard, "This is a tragedy. The blood of an innocent baby is on your hands. That stain will never fade."

After the jury’s guilty verdict District Attorney Brown said, "This tragic death clearly illustrates the devastating consequences of shaking an infant and should serve as an important reminder to all of us of the irreversible damage that can be done by shaking a child."

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