Sitter tried in 1989 slayings of 3 infants - East Valley Tribune: News

Sitter tried in 1989 slayings of 3 infants

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Posted: Monday, March 5, 2007 2:00 am | Updated: 7:41 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Two-month-old Shauna Cunnington was with her baby sitter in Roadrunner Park in Phoenix when she stopped breathing on Feb. 11, 1989. Seven months later, 8-month-old Zachary Mann was napping in the Scottsdale apartment of the same baby sitter before the woman said she found him bloody-mouthed and breathless.

The next month, on Oct. 25, 4-month-old Jordan Whitmer was napping in the same baby sitter’s home, this time a Tempe apartment, before the woman said she found him bluish and rigid, police reports show.

All three babies died before reaching a hospital.

“I don’t think I did anything,” Amy Lynn Scott told investigators, who asked her in 1989 what she did to cause the babies’ deaths.

Seventeen years later, Scott is standing trial in Maricopa County Superior Court. A grand jury indicted the former baby sitter in November 2004 on three counts of first-degree murder.

Scott, now 39, has pleaded not guilty.

Thursday marked the end of the first week of her trial, which will continue today under Judge Brian Ishikawa.

For many years, police investigators weren’t sure how the babies died.

A medical examiner initially listed the causes of death as sudden infant death syndrome.

A doctor thought “a septic condition” due to an ear infection caused Shauna’s death, according to a Phoenix police report.

MYSTERIOUS DEATHS

But cold case detectives who reopened the cases in Tempe and Scottsdale didn’t believe that.

They asked Maricopa County Medical Examiner Philip Keen to revisit the physical evidence and autopsy reports.

In December 2002, Keen ruled that Jordan likely died of “compressional asphyxia,” or being suffocated by a hard squeeze.

Zachary’s death was suggestive of suffocation, he wrote, and suffocation couldn’t be ruled out in Shauna’s death.

In January 2004, Scott told Tempe police Detective Tom Magazzeni she’d forgotten about much of the time period surrounding the babies’ deaths.

She said her marriage was in tumult in 1989 and she’d miscarried twins.

She accused her husband, Seth, of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Eventually, Scott moved on.

She gave birth to four daughters and got divorced.

By 2002, she’d moved to Georgia, where she continued to care for children, a neighbor said.

SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES

Prosecutors last week argued that medical science caught up with Scott. Doctors now understand much more about sudden infant death syndrome than they once did, they said.

They’re aided by almost 10 years of research compiled by cold case detectives, including consultations with medical experts and additional interviews with Scott, her husband and the babies’ parents.

In April 1997, seven forensic pathologists agreed the babies were likely killed.

In 2000, detectives asked Mary Benin of Arizona State University’s sociology department to conduct a statistical analysis for them. What’s the probability that three randomly selected babies all die of SIDS?

Less than one in 200 million, Benin concluded.

“It is extremely likely that these three SIDS deaths are connected in some way,” she added.

‘LOVING THE BABIES’

Scott told Scottsdale police Detective Scott Reed on Nov. 17, 1989, that all she did was love the babies.

“If there’s anything wrong with loving the babies, then put me in jail for the rest of my life,” she said.

In Magazzeni’s January 2004 interview with Scott, he asked her if there was something she might have done to cause Jordan’s death.

“Amy said that she was not saying ‘No,’ but that she wasn’t saying ‘Yes,’ either,” Magazzeni wrote in his report. “Amy said ‘It scares me that there possibly was.’ ”

She was more definite in a wiretapped telephone conversation with her ex-husband in March 2004.

Seth pressed her about what happened on those days in 1989. Had she done something to harm the babies?

“No, Seth, I didn’t,” she repeatedly responded, according to transcripts.

Scott met all of the babies’ parents at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2202 N. 74th St., Scottsdale. Police records show Andrea Cunnington was a neighbor, Jill Mann a childhood friend, and Jordan’s father her Mormon home teacher.

The case is peppered with strange details, according to investigators’ notes.

Jill Mann told detectives that after Zachary’s death, Scott expressed fear on multiple occasions that Jordan might also die.

Scott told Mann about a dream her grandfather had before Zachary’s death that seemed to indicate Zachary and another unidentified baby would die. In the grandfather’s dream, Zachary had been lying exactly where Scott said she later found him dead, Mann told detectives

Scott told investigators she tried to administer CPR to Shauna and Zachary and get them to hospitals, but she made no such efforts with Jordan.

Instead, after finding Jordan dead on her apartment floor, she took him and his 3-year-old brother, Cory, back to their home, placing Jordan in his crib in the exact position in which he’d been before: on his stomach, left side of his face down, with one arm behind his head and the other near his mouth, and a blanket tucked below his chin, according to police.

Scott left Jordan’s mother, Karen Whitmer, to discover the tragedy herself when she arrived home.

Scott has been in Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix since her Nov. 22, 2004, arrest.

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