Yesterday, the babysitter, Michelle A. Heale, 44, of Toms River, charged in the murder of 14 month old Mason Hess, took the stand in her own defense describing what happened to baby Mason August 28th, 2012. The case against Heale stems from the death of Mason Hess whom she was babysitting on a regular basis for the Hess family. The details from the Ocean County Police Blotter reports that “At approximately 2:03 p.m., the Toms River Police Department responded to the Heale home after Heale reported that the child was having difficulty breathing. The Toms River Police Department and the Toms River Township EMS responded and found the child unconscious and not breathing. Mason was immediately transported to a local emergency room in Toms River.”
Shortly after Mason arrived at the emergency room his vitals were noted as deteriorating and he was quickly transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After tests to confirm Mason’s injuries it was shown that the child had suffered a brain trauma resulting from shaken baby syndrome. CHOP physicians concluded that his injuries were from the syndrome which resulted in severe brain, spine and retinal damage. Little Mason succumbed to his devastating injuries on September 1 at approximately 2:30 p.m. The autopsy of little Mason’s body showed cause of death to be blunt cerebral trauma and the manner of death to be homicide.
The grandmother of the child, Mary Ellen Hess, earlier in the case, testified that when she, the grandmother was at the hospital where Mason was being treated, overheard Heale saying. “Oh my God Mason, I’m so sorry. It was my fault, I’m sorry. “The grandmother continued in her testimony that she confronted Heale who stated that “she was afraid she hurt Mason’s legs pulling him out of his highchair when he was choking on applesauce.” Heale did testify that Mason had choked on applesauce and that the child was injured while she tried to the choking. Heale said she “may have hit him harder” than she should have and the child’s head “snapped back fast” and “like a ragdoll, he went completely limp.” Under cross-examination, Heale said she couldn’t “think of an instance why you would shake a baby.”
Heale faces the crime of first degree murder and faces the possibility of life in prison and or a minimum of 30 years in jail. The charge of first degree murder is also subject of the “No Early Release Act, which means if Heale is convicted Heale would not be paroled until she served 85% of the sentence imposed, if given more than the minimum 30-year sentence.