An arrest was made this week in the tragic death of a 1-year-old in Charlotte County in October. Deputies have charged Shahzad Sayed in relation to the drowning of his young child in the pool of their Deep Creek home on October 3, 2020. The primary charge Sayed is facing is Aggravated Manslaughter: the charge is aggravated because a child was the victim. The bigger hurdle for the state will be convincing a jury to convict the grieving father of manslaughter for a tragic, accidental drowning.
The Florida statute on manslaughter does permit a conviction for manslaughter by culpable negligence: it does not require an intentional act if the negligence of a caretaker is especially egregious. That is, someone can be found guilty of the crime by omission instead of an act; but the law saw the omission must evince a state of mind so wanton or reckless it could be considered intentional. Case law has said that the state must prove a gross and flagrant violation of the duty of care that causes injury; a course of conduct showing reckless disregard for human life or the entire want of care raising the presumption of indifference of consequences. A jury may find that the facts support such a finding, but it’s a high bar.
According to news reports, detectives claim that Mr. Sayed “knowingly” went to bed while his two small children were still up. The resultant injury to the child is per se evidence of negligence, but whether it rises to the level of culpable negligence is less clear. The child opened a door and went out to the pool area, where there were no safety devices. Certainly, pool gates are expected safety devices in homes where small children reside, but that omission alone is not enough to rise to the level of culpable negligence. Does the fact that the father fell asleep demonstrate a reckless indifference to life? It’s an issue on which reasonable minds could certainly disagree, and will likely be difficult to convince a jury beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt.
Mr. Sayed has also been charged with some drug related offenses, reportedly due to videos the detectives found that purportedly show drug transactions, and evidence of drugs in the common areas of the home. However, there’s no indication that there was any harm to the children due to the drugs, which means it’s a non-factor as to the manslaughter charge. Those charges may even be severed from the other for trial, so that the jury doesn’t consider them together. (Though, if they have evidence of his drug use the night of the accident, that may be admissible.) The legal aspects of the case are interesting, though the loss of a young child is obviously tragic. Regardless of what Mr. Sayed is convicted of, he will have to live with this the rest of his life.
The headline is the story, because there is no way to abbreviate the lede: two adoptive parents have been arrested and charged with abandoning their adopted daughter, but they claim she had lied about her age, was really an adult, and had even tried to harm them when she was living with them. If it sounds like something out of a movie, you would be right, because it’s basically the plot of the 2009 film ‘Orphan’.
It’s undisputed that the couple, Michael and Kristine Barnett, adopted the girl, and that she has a growth disorder that maintains her small stature. However, the parents claim that her maturity and subsequent tests later showed that she was much older. They ultimately went to court and had her birth certificate corrected from 2003 to 1989, changing her age from eight to 22. Apparently, the decision was later challenged and upheld by the court. She was then legally an adult, and they helped her get on public assistance and helped her rent a place to live. Police affidavits claim Michael admitted that he knew the girl really was a child, that tests had proven in, and that Kristine had told the girl to tell others she was 22. Michael’s attorney denies the claims in the affidavit. The Barnetts, who are now divorced, are both charged with neglect of a dependent for when they moved to Canada in 2013.
Also, while living at the Barnett home, the possible child allegedly attacked a baby, and trying to poison and electrocute them. It really is the movie ‘Orphan’. Read the whole crazy story at DailyMail.com.
I spoke with Fox4 in Fort Myers the other day with some thoughts on the investigation to the missing infant from North Port, and the challenges the prosecutors will face in proving a case against the parents.
North Port parents Joseph Walsh and Kristen Bury
So far, the parents have been charged with Child Neglect, but investigators will certainly continue their investigation to see if more charges are appropriate. They may decide to file homicide charges if the determine Baby Chance was killed: but they have a proof problem not only proving who is responsible for the death, but that the child is even deceased. The parents will be extradited soon to return to Florida on the Neglect charges.
There are a lot of parallels between this case and the Casey Anthony case that went to trial a few years ago. While she was charged before they found a body, even after they found a body, she was acquitted at trial. It’s too early to tell what will happen here, as we don’t even know what happened to the Baby Chance.
The story on Fox4: http://www.scrippsmedia.com/fox4now/news/Attorney-sheds-light-on-investigation-into-the-disappearance-of-baby-Chance-331846751.html
Brent Scott went to do some shoplifting at WalMart, and he took along his 18-month-old daughter. When he was confronted after leaving the store, he grabbed his daughter out of the shopping cart, and tried to run through a retention pond. They went down, and Scott and his daughter both went under at one point, according to witnesses. He was captured and arrested, and his daughter released to her mother. Instead of just facing a misdemeanor petty theft charge, Mr. Scott added a felony for child neglect, and is also facing a violation of probation.
via NBC-s: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/27175365/man-arrested-after-shoplifting-run-with-18-month-old-child#.VFOwefnF9gM