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In-Home Daycare Worker Allegedly Killed 7-Week-Old Baby, Googled ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’

mugshot: Taylor D. Burris

Taylor D. Burris

A 24-year-old in-home daycare worker in Illinois is behind bars this week after she allegedly killed a 7-week-old baby girl who was in her care.

Taylor D. Burris was taken into custody on Tuesday and charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide, aggravated battery, and endangering the life of a child in connection with the death of young Maren Gallagher, records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by the The Herald & Review, deputies with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 2 p.m. on May 17 responded to an emergency 911 call at an in-home daycare located in the 100 block of Valerian Drive in Forsyth. The caller reportedly said that a baby in the home was unresponsive.

Upon arriving at the scene, deputies and emergency medical services personnel found the infant unconscious. EMS rushed the baby to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. Maren was pronounced dead at approximately 3:11 a.m. on May 18.

In an interview with Sgt. Roger Pope, Burris allegedly claimed that the baby was in a bouncy seat when a softball thrown by another child hit her in the head and caused her to cry. She further claimed that Maren’s condition continued to gradually worsen throughout the day. After the child napped for approximately 90 minutes, Burris allegedly said, the suspect gave Maren a bottle which the child threw up.

Sgt. Pope reportedly said, however, that Burris’ story did not comport with the child’s injuries or expert medical evaluations.

A medical examiner performed an autopsy on Maren and determined that she had sustained “a contusion to the right temple and cheek, subdural hemorrhage and hemorrhage surrounding the optic nerves and cervical dorsal root ganglia,” according to a report from Decatur NBC affiliate WAND. Maren also reportedly sustained a bruised lung.

Investigators working with the state Department of Children and Family Services then sent the autopsy report, photographs of Maren, and the police report to Dr. Jill C. Glick. Glick is a board certified child abuse pediatrician and professor at the University of Chicago School of Medicine who specializes in child abuse and neglect, child advocacy, and forensic pediatrics.

After examining the materials, Dr. Glick reportedly concluded that Maren’s injuries were most likely caused by “a violent car crash or shaken baby syndrome,” according to the affidavit.

“Dr. Glick would then indicate that since there was no known car crash, she strongly suspected shaken baby syndrome,” Sgt. Pope reportedly wrote.

In a follow-up interview with investigators on June 14, Burris allegedly said a ball did strike Maren and cause her to cry. The suspect allegedly admitted she then shook the child out of frustration, causing the far more severe injuries.

“Taylor admitted she had to tell [the baby’s mother] and police that a softball hit Maren because after she observed Maren’s health declining, she needed a more probable means to account for the significant injuries Maren had sustained,” Pope reportedly wrote.

Investigators then obtained and executed a search warrant on Burris’ cell phone. Her internet search history reportedly showed that Burris had used Google to search for information about “shaken baby syndrome.”

“Taylor admitted that she had ‘Googled’ information about ‘shaken baby syndrome’ the evening that Maren was in the hospital and lay dying,” Pope reportedly wrote. “Taylor admitted the incident occurred around 10:40 a.m. but didn’t call EMS until 2:05 p.m. When on the phone with dispatch, Taylor said that the infant had been in an unresponsive and impeded or apneic breathing state for 20 minutes before she called EMS. This was clearly neglectful behavior.”

In addition to her initial claims about Maren’s injuries, Burris allegedly told several other lies to investigators.

“[Police] said the 5-year-old child that she initially claimed threw a softball and hit Maren was in school when the incident happened. They said she they tried to say a 3-year-old child had thrown the ball,” WAND reported. “They also said she lied about how many children were present during the incident, initially saying there were three children there. Officers said there were six children in the home.”

In a press release, the Sangamon County Coroner’s Office called Maren’s autopsy results “highly suspicious,” but said the final cause of death is still pending.

“The important question in this case, as in all cases of infant head trauma, is whether or not the injuries the child sustained are consistent with the explanation given by the caretaker. The final autopsy report is not done,” the release said.

Burris is currently being held at the Macon County Jail on $250,000 bond.

[Image via Macon County Jail]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.