A Missouri father has been charged with second-degree murder after his son died 20 years after he shook him as baby.
A grand jury indicted 39-year-old Olin Tannery on Tuesday, October 30, saying he was responsible for the death of his son, Dominick, by shaking and squeezing him in 1998 when he was still a baby.
Court documents from 1998 show that Tannery told authorities he could not get his 1-month-old son quiet, so he picked up the baby, squeezed him and shook him, and then threw him down.
The boy was brought to Children’s Mercy Hospital. He sustained a vertebra fracture, multiple rib fractures, severe bleeding, and head injuries, which are consistent with shaken baby syndrome, a form of inflicted physical trauma that causes severe brain damage.
The syndrome is the most common cause of long-term disability and death in young children who are victims of child abuse.
According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, there are between 600 and 1,400 estimated cases of this form of physical abuse in the United State per year, albeit there is currently no reliable method for collecting the statistics.
The young Dominick suffered from life-threatening injuries and was given a poor chance of recovery, but he survived and lived for 20 more years.
He used a wheelchair, learned to play basketball from a middle school coach, and spent hours shooting baskets at their home, his adoptive father, Wendell Pittsenbarger, told the Kansas City Star. He even graduated from high school in 2017.
In April, 2018, however, 20-year-old Dominick, who used the last name of his adoptive father, died allegedly because of complications caused by the shaking he suffered when he was a baby.
“I love that boy and still miss him dearly,” Wendell Pittsenbarger said. “I think about him all of the time.”
Kansas City defense attorney John Picerno, who is not involved in the case, said that the prosecutors would have to prove that the 1998 assault is what caused Dominick Pittsenbarger’s death 20 years later.
“The issue really boils down to matter of law, of can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not the actions of the defendant ultimately caused the death of this kid,” Picerno said, according to KSHB.
In August, 1999, Tannery pleaded guilty to a charge of first degree assault and served 13 years in prison. He is now in custody at the Clay County Jail on a $500,000 bond. His court appearance is set for November 20.