A former nanny was sentenced to 8½ years in prison for the murder of an infant at her home on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico.
Amy Hunter, 27, pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria in January to second-degree murder in the death of the 9-month-old girl, identified in court documents only as C.P.
Hunter lived on the base with her active-duty Marine husband and had been providing daily care of the baby girl, along with her own daughter, when the baby suffered violent head and spine injuries on April 26, 2011, authorities said.
Hunter, originally from Longview, Wash., called 911 to report that the girl "hit the back of her head really hard" after she "smacked her head on the staircase."
The child was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she died two days later. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
In an initial interview with a Naval Criminal Investigative Services agent the day of the incident, Hunter said she left C.P. alone while she went to the bathroom; when she returned, C.P. turned around and fell backward, hitting her head on a chair leg, according to charging documents.
Doctors at the hospital found that the girl suffered from skull fractures, soft tissue swelling and bleeding in the brain consistent with "impact on the back of her head" and "violent repetitive rotational head trauma." The hospital also identified a healing rib fracture that they believed was more than three weeks old.
In a second interview, charging papers said, Hunter admitted that she repeatedly shook C.P., and causing C.P.'s head to strike the wall." Hunter said she put her own daughter down for a nap, fed C.P. a bottle, then put her down so Hunter could use the restroom. The girl began to scream and continued "until Hunter picked her up, yelled at her to stop crying, and shook her." Hunter admitted to hitting C.P.'s head against the wall at least once. At that point the baby went limp and "blacked out," she said.
She also admitted to shaking the child in a similar manner about three weeks before the child's death.
When investigators searched Hunter's computer, they found that someone had conducted online searches for "shaken baby syndrome" and "baby hits back of head."
Shaken baby syndrome is a leading cause of child-abuse deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several recent studies indicate that hospitals are seeing more shaken baby cases, including among military families. The Marine Corps Times reported in 2011 that the number of military children killed by child abuse or neglect more than doubled between 2003 and 2010, rising from 14 to 29.