Doctor takes stand in baby sitter's murder trial

Dr. John Plunkett, a pathologist from Minnesota, disagreed completely that the baby died from being shaken.

Dr. John Plunkett, a pathologist from Minnesota, disagreed completely that the baby died from being shaken. (4/8/15)

FREEHOLD - Expert testimony from a doctor was brought before a jury Wednesday in the trial of a baby sitter accused of shaking the child she was caring for to death.

Michelle Heale, of Toms River, is facing charges of murder and endangering the welfare of a child in the death of 14-month-old Mason Hess in 2012.

Dr. John Plunkett, a pathologist from Minnesota, disagreed completely that Hess died from being shaken. He said there was no sign of blunt cerebral trauma and shaken baby syndrome, which is the crux of the state's case against Heale.

The Monmouth County prosecutor argued that Heale shook Hess violently, causing brain and spinal cord damage.

The defense also took a shot at the state's use of a doll, which Heale was instructed to use to demonstrate how she handled Hess. They claimed that it had no resemblance to the baby and was an inaccurate depiction of what it represented.

State prosecutors fired back at Dr. Plunkett, noting that in 150 cases, he always testified for the defense. They also pointed out that he has not performed an autopsy in four years.

Heale testified in court on Tuesday. She gave her side of the story, saying that Hess was sitting on her bedroom floor when he began choking on applesauce. According to Heale, she picked Hess up and hit him on the back until the applesauce came out, which is when his head snapped back and she called 911.

The trial is expected to continue Thursday.

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