Babysitter Not Guilty in Death of Baby Boy
|Reported by: Sean Carroll
Last Update: 4/30 6:12 pm
Middlesex, NY — Shari Cotroneo was accused of manslaughter in the second degree last July following the February death of a one year-old boy she was babysitting. Cotroneo was looking at five to 15 years in prison if convicted; she was taken away from her own daughters for more than ten months while she awaited a trial that would eventually prove her innocence.Following that trial circumstances surrounding Garren Smith’s death remain a mystery. But those that know Cotroneo, and even members of the jury that heard the evidence against her, never doubted her innocence.
Cotroneo was Garren Smith’s babysitter four days a week for six months. As a stay-at-home mother with daughters of her own, the opportunity to earn some extra money while watching neighborhood children who could play with her children seemed a good fit.
“It was the ideal situation,” Cotroneo said of that arrangement.
On February 5th 2009, an hour or so after Garren Smith was left in Cotroneo’s care, he began a seizure. Cotroneo rushed him to the hospital, doctors tried their very best but Smith died that afternoon. Four months later an autopsy led investigators to draw conclusions.
“Basically the medical examiner came back saying this was a case of shaken baby,” Cotroneo’s lawyer Tom Splain said of the autopsy. “(It said) that on the morning of February 5th something happened to Garren Smith while he was in Shari’s care, in that one hour, and that he went into immediate distress.”
“We never would’ve thought they were going to try and blame it on me,” Cotroneo said of the investigation. “There was nothing besides an M.E. saying it had to have happened, like this, right then, right there.”
Cotroneo was charged with manslaughter following a Yates County Grand Jury indictment. The County also said her children were now at risk.
“I was taken out of this home my youngest had just turned 2-months old, I was still breastfeeding,” Cotroneo recalled. “Three days a week I got to see the girls, six hours each day.”
Ten months later there was a trial. In court medical experts testified that Garren Smith sustained a skull fracture three to 14 days prior to his death.
“Medical examiner says that had nothing to do with his death, our medical expert thought otherwise that absolutely something happened,” Splain said of the differing testimony.
It was a seven day trial but it took the jury just over two hours on the afternoon of April 20th to return a not guilty verdict.
“I would like to be able to just move on to put it all behind me, but at the same time I am angry I am mad that they did this to me,” Cotroneo said.
“There are no winners in this whole situation,” Chad Cotroneo, Shari’s husband said. “It really stinks.”
Yates County District Attorney Jason Cook said all the evidence in this case was presented in court and that with the jury’s verdict, the case is now over. He gives no indication that he’ll further investigate the death of Garren Smith, adding that the great “unknown” in this case is exactly what happened, and when.
On Wednesday April 28th the County’s Family Court case against Cotroneo was dismissed allowing her to at last return home to her children. Three jurors in that trial have since taken the unprecedented step of reaching out to Cotroneo to say how quickly they all agreed on her innocence.
The parents of Garren Smith were contacted and aware of this report but declined to comment.