Original article no longer available
The Indianapolis Star
James A. Gillaspy
December 15, 2007
SHERIDAN, Ind. — Rebecca Kyrie always dreamed of adopting a child. Six months after her dream came true, she is accused of killing the Korean baby in a fit of rage.
Rebecca R. Kyrie, 28, Sheridan, was being held without bond Friday in the Hamilton County Jail. – Provided by Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department
Friday, the 28-year-old Sheridan woman appeared in Hamilton Superior Court in Noblesville to face charges of murder, battery resulting in death, neglect of a dependent resulting in death and aggravated battery.
The charges stem from the Sept. 4 death of Hei Min Chung, a 13-month-old girl being adopted by Kyrie and her husband, David. Medical and police authorities claim Kyrie shook the girl so violently that the baby suffered fatal brain injuries.
Kyrie was arrested Thursday and is being held without bond in the Hamilton County Jail in Noblesville.
The arrest followed a three-month investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department. It stunned those who know Kyrie, a regular churchgoer who performed dance interpretations of Bible stories at Church of Praise in Eagletown.
“I’m just flabbergasted by this all,” said Phyllis Baird, a Sheridan neighbor who recalls how the couple put up a fence when they adopted the girl, whom they had named Chaeli, so she could play in the yard. “I’m sure she didn’t go up and say, ‘I’m going to shake you and kill you.’.”
Hei Min Chung, 13 months, died Sept. 4. Police said the girl had been shaken so violently that she suffered fatal brain injuries. (Provided by Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department)
Suspect’s mental condition
Sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Mark Bowen said Friday that Kyrie offered no explanation for her baby’s condition when she called 911 on Sept. 3 and reported the child was frothing at the mouth.
Later, however, she referred to personal problems, according to evidence filed in court.
According to the sworn statement by sheriff’s Detective Scott McKinney, Kyrie claimed her child’s doctor “had prescribed Xanax and Lexapro for Mrs. Kyrie for some depression issues that she has had in the past that she was afraid might resurface.”
Although Kyrie never acknowledged shaking the child, McKinney said that during a Sept. 4 interview with one of her biological sons, the little boy said “his mommy told him not to tell what happened to Sissy, which is the name he used for Chaeli.”
David Kyrie was not implicated in the girl’s death. An employee of an Indianapolis hospital, he was at work when officials believe the injuries were inflicted.
“They’d had the child for approximately four months,” Bowen said of the couple, who’d been working with Bethany Christian Services to adopt a child from Korea.
“The mother had been caring for the child in the home and had contacted 911 because the child was reportedly having difficulty breathing and was frothing at the mouth.”
After the baby was taken by ambulance to Riverview Hospital in Noblesville and then moved to St. Vincent Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, she was diagnosed with a severe brain injury and placed on life support.
Chaeli died after she was removed from life support the next day. The recently obtained results of an autopsy show she died from “blunt cranio-cerebral injuries” associated with shaken baby syndrome.
The death was ruled a homicide, and on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators obtained a warrant for Kyrie’s arrest.
Kyrie has declined media requests for an interview, according to jail officials. Bowen said she has not admitted to shaking the baby, and he said her husband claimed no knowledge of any prior abuse.
“It appears to be an isolated incident,” Bowen said.
Doctor details injuries
Dr. Rick Metz, a pediatric physician at St. Vincent Hospital, determined that Chaeli’s brain was bleeding in the front and back of her head and that she was brain dead, according to Detective McKinney.
“Dr. Metz advised that this is a possible case of abusive head trauma, and when asked when the onset of symptoms would occur, Dr. Metz advised that they would occur within minutes to one hour of the abuse,” the detective reported.
David Kyrie told investigators that when he telephoned his wife about 5 p.m. Sept. 3, she said Chaeli had been fussy. David Kyrie told detectives that “Chaeli is stubborn and it was hard to get her to do anything.”
Sometime after the Kyries talked, the Riverview Hospital chaplain called to tell David Kyrie that Chaeli was being taken to St. Vincent and he should go there, David Kyrie told McKinney.
David Kyrie told McKinney that the baby “vomited a lot” after coming here from Korea. Kyrie said she was later diagnosed with nodular gastritis and was on medication. He also said he and his wife had called 911 in July when the child suffered a seizure.
State’s DCS notified
The Indiana Department of Child Services was notified Sept. 4, and the Kyries were not allowed to have contact with their sons. They moved to a home in Fishers, and the 3-year-old and 5-year-old sons were cared for in the Sheridan home by another family member and friend, Bowen said.
At Bethany Christian Services in Indianapolis, part of a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based not-for-profit adoption service with offices in 30 states, branch director Linda Wrestler said confidentiality prevents her from discussing specific cases.
She said, however, that every client or couple seeking to adopt faces rigorous scrutiny.
The case studies include parents’ written autobiographies, criminal and social services checks, verification of employment and finances, birth certificates, health records and personal references.
In conjunction with the background checks, an agency social worker meets several times with the family, including at least once in their home.
“We talk about their marriage, their lifestyle, what their child-rearing patterns are, their home and community,” Wrestler said.
“One of the big things we’d cover would be the family’s motivation for wanting to adopt.”
As her child lay brain dead at St. Vincent — with just a couple of months to go before the adoption agency’s required term of observation would end and the adoption would be finalized — Kyrie shed some light on the question.
In a brief reference to her interview with a child protection case manager on Sept. 4, Detective McKinney said, “Mrs. Kyrie advised that it has always been a dream or goal of hers to adopt a child.”
Star reporter Chris Sikich contributed to this story. Call Star reporter James A. Gillaspy at (317) 444-5529.