Tag Archives: homicide

Punta Gorda man Charged with Manslaughter in Accidental Drowning Death of Child

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.

My Thoughts on the Baby Chance Investigation

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

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

Watch for me on Fox4 News Tonight at 10 p.m.

North Port parents Joseph Walsh and Kristen Bury

North Port parents Joseph Walsh and Kristen Bury

I spoke with Fox4 News this afternoon for a story she is working on regarding the mysterious disappearance of a 9-week old baby from North Port. Specifically, we talked about how the challenges of the case, and how hard to prosecute the case if there is only circumstantial evidence… especially if the State decides to pursue homicide charges, though no body has been found at this time. So far, they have only been charged with child neglect, but that is very much subject to change as more evidence comes in, and the prosecutor reviews the case. It is a terrible tragic case that will likely be a major story for some time to come.

Here’s the Fox4 Website: http://www.scrippsmedia.com/fox4now