Recap: A young couple from Buffalo comes to Manhattan and claims that their 3-month-old baby was stolen along with their car. Soon mom and dad’s stories start to conflict and fall apart. Things look even more suspicious when the baby’s fecal matter is found inside a cooler. Eventually, the detectives find the baby buried in a beach. The father then confesses that he shook the baby to death, while the mother confesses that she drowned the baby in a tub. But, it turns out, both parents were lying. The ME discovers that the baby died of SIDS. The parents staged the abduction to cover the unexpected death, and then confessed to protect each other. At the end, the detectives let the sobbing couple go home.
What they got right: This is such a tragic scenario, but one I had to deal with all the time. A couple times a month, we’d get the case of a baby who died from or suffered catastrophic injuries. Of course, the infant can’t tell us what happened, so investigators are left to figure it out as best we can. It’s very difficult, as an emotional and evidentiary matter. Often, the cause of the injuries is Shaken Baby Syndrome, where the child suffers severe brain damage from being shaken. Shaken babies’ brains show a particular pattern of brain injuries, but that pattern can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a baby who merely fell off a tall bed onto a wood floor. Investigators rely heavily on the stories given by the parents, but must take these stories with a grain of salt, as the parents are often the ones who inflicted the injuries. The long, drawn-out questioning in this episode – with the detectives agonizing over the case, trying to figure out what the hell actually happened, all the while losing time with their own kids – was very realistic.
What they got wrong: There have been plenty of cases in the last decade of parents falsely claiming that their children were abducted. Never has there been a case where SIDS was the actual culprit. And it didn’t make much sense. Why would the parents confess to a much worse story than what actually happened? Yes, people occasionally make false confessions. But saying you drowned your kid when you know that he died in his sleep seems not only unwise, but unbelievable.
At the end of the episode, SVU decides to let the parents go free. “They’ll be paying for this for the rest of their lives,” Nick says, and everyone nods sadly. Not in the real world. They’d be facing obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and lying to the police charges. At the very least, the mom’s statement that “everyone knows bad things happen in New York City” would get her some charges from this crew.
Finally, I was underwhelmed with their “poop in the cooler” evidence. Not to be totally gross, but . . . I have two pre-school-aged boys, and a small layer of their poop probably coats every item in my house. I doubt any of it would have much evidentiary value.
On a side note, did anyone else notice that the DA is looking paler and paler, and her hair getting more maroon, every episode? My theory is that she’s turning into a vampire. Hey, that might be a hot show these days: vampires solving sex crimes! What do you think?