A Toms River babysitter is being held on $250,000 bail with no 10 percent option after being charged with the murder of a 14-month-old child, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday.
Authorities said that Michelle A. Heale, 44, was babysitting the child, Mason Hess, at her Toms River home on Aug. 28 when she allegedly violently shook him, causing injuries that led to his death days later, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a statement.
At the time, Heale called police to report that the child was having difficulty breathing and Toms River police and emergency responders arrived to find the child "unconscious and not breathing," Gramiccioni said.
Hess was taken to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where doctors determined that he had sustained physical abuse and was in "grave" condition. It was determined by CHOP doctors on Aug. 31 that the child "was the victim of violent shaking that caused severe brain, spine and retinal damage," Gramiccioni said.
The child died from those injuries on Sept. 1 and an autopsy performed by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death to be a homicide caused by blunt cerebral trauma, according to Gramiccioni.
The investigation was handled by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office because the father of the victim and the defendant's husband are employed by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, Gramiccioni said.
"Murder is a crime of the first degree and carries a maximum sentence of lifetime in prison, and a minimum of 30 years in jail with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility," Gramiccioni said. "This charge is also subject to the 'No Early Release Act,' which means that, if convicted, Heale would not be paroled until she served 85 percent of the sentence imposed, if given more than the minimum 30-year sentence."
Director of Investigations Marc C. LeMieux is prosecuting the case and Heale is represented by Toms River attorney Karl Mohel.