Colorado mental-health counselor charged with murdering infant son — (The Denver Post)

To view original article click here

The Denver Post

By Tom McGhee

Posted: 06/08/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT    Updated: 06/08/2010 05:55:12 AM MDT

Stephanie Rochester looks to her public defender, Megan Ring, at the Boulder County Justice Center on Monday. Rochester is charged with murdering her infant son. (Paul Aiken, Daily Camera)

It took three attempts over nearly 12 hours for Stephanie Rochester to smother the infant son she feared was autistic, according to an arrest affidavit unsealed Monday.

Rochester, 34, a mental-health counselor who worked with autistic kids at Children’s Hospital, was charged Monday with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of her 6-month-old son, Rylan.

As she entered the Boulder District courtroom, wearing a suicide-prevention smock under a blue jail jumpsuit, she turned and looked to the gallery where two women, who said they are family members, sat. One of them put her hand to her heart and pursed her lips as she looked at Rochester.

Her husband, Lloyd Rochester IV, 29, was not in the courtroom.

The Rochesters brought their unresponsive baby from their home in Superior to the nearby Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville early the morning of June 1. Attempts to revive him failed.

At the hospital, Rochester told a Boulder County sheriff’s detective that she had been depressed and suicidal and had killed the baby as he slept in his crib.

She was arrested and has since been held without bond in the Boulder County Jail. A preliminary hearing has been set for Sept. 8.

During a follow-up interview after she was taken into custody, Rochester told investigators that in the weeks before Rylan’s death, she had been anxious and depressed and became increasingly concerned the baby was autistic. She discussed her worries with a pediatrician who told her the boy was developing normally and there were no signs of a disorder.

Rochester discussed her depression with a midwife from Boulder Nurse Midwives about a week before the death. She was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft.

On May 26, she asked her mother-in-law, Janice Rochester, for help caring for Rylan “because she was having increasingly frequent suicidal thoughts,” according to the warrant.

She then stayed with Janice Rochester until her husband returned from a business trip on May 28.

When the baby, who had thrush, a relatively common yeast infection of the mouth and throat, became increasingly fussy and refused to eat on May 31, the couple took him to Children’s Hospital’s urgent-care clinic in Broomfield.

During the two hours they waited to see a doctor, “Lloyd made a comment that he didn’t know it was going to be like this, meaning having a child,” the warrant said.

They left the clinic without seeing a doctor, intending to see one the following day.

When they arrived home about 7 p.m., Stephanie Rochester put Rylan in his crib. “She thought, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ She told (the investigator) she has had a lot of suffering in her life and she didn’t want to suffer any more or have Rylan suffer,” the affidavit said.

While he was in his crib, Rochester put a plastic bag over Rylan’s head and then put a blanket on his face, the affidavit said. “She said that she had conducted research on the computer and read that carbon-monoxide poisoning deaths don’t hurt . . . she did not want Rylan to hurt.”

After a short time, she removed the bag and the child was still breathing. She left the room and she and her husband talked as they ate. They talked about having fun, the affidavit said. “Stephanie said that she knew they would not have fun while they were caring for a severely autistic child.”

When her husband went to the computer, she went back to Rylan’s room and placed three folded baby blankets over the boy’s face to stop his breathing, the affidavit said.

About an hour later, she “got nervous” and took the blankets from his face. Rylan’s eyes were open and he wasn’t responsive, though he continued to breathe. Her husband came into the room to check on the boy and the couple went to bed.

Lloyd Rochester later told police that Rylan was sleeping with eyes open when he checked on him, and he assumed he was fine.

Stephanie Rochester told police that she heard the baby whimpering as she lay in bed.

At about 2:30 a.m., she took two or more adult-sized blankets, folded them and placed them on his head without applying pressure. “She put the blankets on his head to stop Rylan from breathing,” the warrant said.

“Stephanie stated she intended to kill herself as well, however, she did not have a plan on how to do that. She said she could not kill herself and leave Lloyd with the burden of raising Rylan.”

Rochester told investigators that at approximately 6 a.m., she thought about going into the garage and killing herself but instead went to the baby’s room. She took the blankets off the baby and “just lost it” when she realized what she had done. She threw the blankets into a guest room so Lloyd would not see them.

Thirty minutes later, Rochester asked her husband to come into the baby’s room. “He noted that Rylan was not breathing and was warm to the touch,” the warrant said. “He threw on shirt and pants and grabbed Rylan from the crib.”

Together, they went to the hospital.

During the interview after her arrest, a detective asked about a blanket that was over Rylan’s head when her husband came into the infant’s room.

“Stephanie said that the monkey and bunny blanket was over Rylan’s head, in addition to the adult blankets, when she killed him.

“She said he always slept with monkey and bunny blanket,” the affidavit said.

Tom McGhee: 303-954-1671 or tmcghee@denverpost.com