Parents sue day care provider convicted in 15-month-old's death

Shearers are seeking $6 million in damages

October 16, 2002|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The parents of a 15-month-old Columbia girl who died after she was violently shaken nearly three years ago are suing the day care provider who was later convicted of causing the baby's death.

Victoria and Kevin Shearer are asking for $6 million in damages from former day care provider Kathleen A. Butcher, her husband, Ducman Butcher, and the Howard County Child Care Association, claiming wrongful death, negligence, fraud and misrepresentation in the death of their younger daughter, Alexa, in November 1999.

The lawsuit alleges that Kathleen Butcher caused the girl's fatal injuries and that she and her husband did not tell the Shearers that Butcher had a "prior history of child abuse as a day care provider in 1997, and possibly at other times" - an apparent reference to the case of Caitlin Loh, an infant whom Butcher cared for five years ago.

Police never charged Butcher in the Loh case, but the girl's father filed suit against the day care provider in December 1999, alleging she caused the child's broken hand and damaged spine. That lawsuit is scheduled for trial in January.

The Shearers would not have placed their daughter in Butcher's day care had they known about Caitlin Loh, according to the couple's lawsuit, which was filed in Howard Circuit Court last week.

Butcher, 39, is serving a 10-year prison term for manslaughter, child abuse and assault convictions stemming from Alexa's death.

The girl stopped breathing while at Butcher's home-based day care Nov. 16, 1999, and was taken off life support two days later. A medical examiner determined that she died of blunt force trauma caused by shaking and impact, and authorities alleged that Butcher caused the girl's fatal injuries.

A Howard County jury agreed in March 2001.

Butcher maintains that she is innocent in the Shearer and Loh cases, said attorney Michael W. Ryan Jr., who represents her in the Loh lawsuit.

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