A pregnant St. Mary's County woman and her husband pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal court to charges that they killed their 9-month-old daughter last year by depriving her of fluids.
Peter and Vicki Snyder, both 20, who are expecting their third child next week, denied that they murdered their daughter Alyson in an arraignment before U.S. District Judge Herbert F. Murray. The couple were indicted for second-degree murder last week by a federal grand jury.
Mr. Snyder, a supply clerk at the Patuxent Naval Air Station, and Mrs. Snyder are accused of intentionally withholding fluids from Alyson to kill her.
She was already dead when her parents brought her to Patuxent Naval Hospital last Nov. 22.
An autopsy showed Alyson died of dehydration and an acute electrolyte imbalance, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein contended was a result of being deprived of fluids.
But the baby's body showed no other signs of physical abuse, noted Mrs. Snyder's attorney, Edward Smith Jr. He said he expected the case to revolve around the testimony of medical experts on the cause of the dehydration and the electrolyte disorder.
Alyson's death, Mr. Smith argued, could have been triggered by a reaction to infant formula or a chemical imbalance within her body.
"There are a whole lot of possibilities in this case," he said.
Mr. Bernstein refused to discuss the circumstances that led up to Alyson's death, nor would he reveal what motive he thought the Snyders might have had for killing the child.
At the time of Alyson's death, the Snyders' other daughter, 3-year-old Amanda, showed no signs of dehydration or any other form of abuse, Mr. Bernstein said.
Nevertheless, the Maryland Department of Social Services decided to remove Amanda from the home. She is living with her paternal grandparents in Cooperstown, Pa., where the Snyders lived before moving to Maryland.
Mr. Bernstein said he was uncertain what will happen to the baby Mrs. Snyder is expected to give birth to next week. The couple were released yesterday on their own recognizance, and their trial is scheduled for Nov. 26.