Teen mother repeatedly tried to smother her baby, Fort Worth jurors told
FORT WORTH -- Shantaniqua Nykole Scott's life changed drastically at age 17 when she gave birth to a baby boy.
She went from being a carefree teenager to a single, unemployed mother who could no longer attend school.
So on July 16, 2010, prosecutors say, Scott decided to get her old life back by trying to take the life of her son, Rhaidyn.
"I put my hand over his face," Scott told a detective in a tape-recorded interview. "He stopped breathing. ... I didn't want to deal with the stress and the fact that I had a kid any more."
Scott's recorded confession was played for jurors Wednesday during the opening day of testimony in Scott's trial, which is being held in state district Judge Scott Wisch's courtroom.
Scott, 18, of Waco has been charged with two counts of injury to a child/serious bodily injury, stemming from allegations that she tried to smother her son by placing a blanket and then her hand over his nose and mouth while the child was in the hospital.
If convicted, she faces a sentence that ranges from probation to life in prison.
During her opening statement, prosecutor Rainey Webb, who is trying the case with Eric Nickols, told the jury to prepare themselves for what they were going to hear and see.
Webb told the panel that 4-month-old Rhaidyn was flown from a Waco hospital to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, where he was being treated for recurring, life-threatening gastroesophageal reflux that was causing him to stop breathing.
But after he arrived at Cook's, Webb told the jury, a doctor suspected something else was causing the baby to stop breathing and placed him in a video-monitored room.
Webb said that the doctor's suspicions were confirmed July 16 when a code alarm sounded, indicating that the boy's vital signs were failing. Medical personnel rushed in and revived the baby, but a check of the video showed Scott pressing a blanket, then her hand over the infant's face to block his breathing.
"There was no medical condition that made this baby stop breathing," Webb told the jury. "It was this defendant's hand. ... I wish we didn't have to show this video to you. A few more seconds and he would have been dead. ... Her disregard and her selfishness nearly cost the child his life."
Defense attorney David Jones reserved his right to make an opening statement later in the trial, but he suggested through cross-examination of witnesses that the baby did not suffer serious bodily injury because of the incident.
After opening statements, prosecutors called Fort Worth Detective Dennis Hutchins of the crimes-against-children unit, who investigated the case and interviewed Scott. She had initially denied doing anything to harm her baby.
But after Hutchins repeatedly told her that he "absolutely" knew that she done something, she confessed. Among other things, she told Hutchins how she had no job to support her son, that the baby's father wanted nothing to do with them, and how difficult it was being a teenage mother.
Late in the afternoon, the courtroom fell silent for more than 10 minutes as jurors watched the video, which first showed Scott holding a blue Winnie the Pooh blanket over her son's face for 21 seconds before taking it away. A short time later, she leaned against his hospital crib, with her head in her hand, and nonchalantly held her hand over his mouth and nose for a minute and 14 seconds. The baby can be seen kicking his legs and flailing his arms before finally going limp.
Emergency personnel rushed in and worked on the baby, who would have died without medical help, said Dr. Sami Hadeed, the Cook's doctor who had been trying to determine what was wrong with Rhaidyn before the incident. He said the video still haunts him.
"You have a baby who was being smothered by his mom," Hadeed said with tears in his eyes. "He fought endlessly before he basically quit. I still get emotional and I get night sweats every time I think about it. I take care of the sickest of the sick, and I cannot get over a baby who is perfectly healthy and whose life was endangered by someone who was supposed to protect him."
The child is currently in foster care.