An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted a former Baker day-care worker on a second-degree murder charge Wednesday in the October death of a 2-month-old infant.
The indictment of Ashley Rene Reifer, 23, came six months after the doctor who performed Brody Hopper’s autopsy testified in February that the infant died as a result of “traumatic brain injury,’’ also referred to as shaken baby syndrome.
Baker police arrested Reifer in January in Hopper’s death.
Police have said their investigation revealed Hopper was in the sole care of Reifer on Oct. 28 from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., when the boy’s father arrived to pick him up from the Busy Bee Learning Center on Groom Road.
Police were dispatched to the facility after the father noticed his son was unresponsive. The child was pronounced dead at Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary.
Lance Unglesby, Reifer’s attorney, said a grand jury presentation is a “one-sided affair” and added “we are confident that when we present our side, Miss Reifer will be exonerated.”
Dr. Bruce Wainer, who performed Hopper’s autopsy, testified at a hearing in February that the autopsy revealed multiple brain hemorrhages, even though there was no sign of trauma to the skull or the rest of the exterior of Hopper’s body.
When Unglesby asked if Wainer was of the opinion that Hopper was shaken so hard that he suffered traumatic brain injury, the doctor replied, “Yes, I am.’’
“Are you 100 percent certain that Brody Hopper was accelerated and decelerated?’’ Unglesby inquired further. Wainer answered that it was “more likely than not’’ that Hopper’s injuries resulted from being shaken.
Unglesby argued there was “no direct evidence’’ that Reifer injured Hopper.
Prosecutor Steve Danielson countered that Hopper’s death was not an accident and accused Reifer of “criminally negligent mistreatment.’’
A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison.
Reifer’s case has been assigned to state District Judge Chip Moore.