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Judge Reduces Bond for In-Home Daycare Worker Accused of Shaking 7-Week-Old Girl to Death and Lying to Investigators

Taylor D. Burris is shown in a Macon County Jail mugshot.

Taylor D. Burris. (Image via the Macon County Jail.)

A judge in Illinois ordered a bond reduction for an in-home day care operator accused of shaking a 7-week-old baby girl to death while the child was in her care, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show. Macon County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Griffith on Wednesday granted a request to reduce the bail amount of Taylor D. Burris to $200,000, only 10 percent of which needs to be posted for her release.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, Burris was taken into custody last month 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. Her bond was initially set at $250,000, meaning she was originally required to post $25,000 to secure pretrial release.

According to a report from The Herald & Review, Macon County State’s Attorney Scott Rueter opposed the motion to reduce the bond amount, emphasizing the severity of the crime Burris allegedly confessed to committing.

Burris’ attorney reportedly sought to have her bond set at $50,000.

According to a sworn affidavit, 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 concerning an unresponsive baby. Upon arriving at the scene, deputies and emergency medical services personnel discovered Maren unconscious and not breathing. EMS rushed the baby to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. Maren was pronounced dead at approximately 3:11 a.m. the following day.

Burris initially told investigators that a 5-year-old child had thrown a softball and struck Maren in the side of the head while the infant was in a bouncy seat, per the affidavit. She said the ball left a mark on Maren’s head. Burris allegedly texted a photo of the child’s injury to Maren’s mother then put the infant down for a nap. Approximately 90 minutes later, the infant awoke and was fed a bottle which Burris claimed she vomited back up. A short while later she was rushed to the hospital via ambulance where she later died.

Investigators said Burris’ description of the events did not comport with the evaluations of medical experts.

A medical examiner performed an autopsy on Maren and determined that the infant had sustained “a contusion to the right temple and cheek, subdural hemorrhage and hemorrhage surrounding the optic nerves and cervical dorsal root ganglia,” the affidavit states. The doctor who performed the autopsy said the injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

The autopsy report and photographs of the body were then sent to Dr. Jill C. Glick, 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.

“Dr. Glick would conclude in her preliminary findings that these injuries were caused by a violent car crash or shaken baby syndrome,” the affidavit states. “Dr. Glick would then indicate that since there was no known car crash, she strongly suspected shaken baby syndrome.”

In a follow-up interview with investigators on June 14, Burris allegedly changed her story. She allegedly said that a ball did strike Maren and caused her to cry, but Burris also allegedly admitted that she then shook Maren out of frustration — severely exacerbating the child’s 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,” the affidavit states.

Investigators then obtained and executed a search warrant on Burris’ cell phone. Her internet search history reportedly showed that she 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,” the affidavit states. “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 “lie[s]” 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,” the affidavit states. “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 coroner’s office said. “The final autopsy report is not done.”

Burris has pleaded not guilty to the aforementioned charges. She is currently scheduled to appear in court again for a pretrial hearing on Aug. 10.

Read the sworn affidavit below.

[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.