(c) 2018 Santa Fe New Mexican Republished with Permission
Woman held in infant death granted release

Rachel Smith sits with attorneys during a hearing in District Court on Tuesday. Smith was being held in the death of 3-month-old she was baby-sitting. PHAEDRA HEYWOOD | THE NEW MEXICAN

Rachel Smith, 27, had been in jail since her March 2017 arrest in connection with the death of the baby boy at a Cerrillos Road motel.

The infant’s mother — then 17 years-old — had left two children with Smith for five days preceding the death, according to court records, and Smith was living with the children in the Thunderbird Motel when she woke up one morning to find the baby was not breathing.

Investigators originally speculated that Smith — a heroin addict who admitted shooting up in the bathroom while she was watching the boy and his 2 year-old sister — might have rolled over on the boy. However, an autopsy later revealed the infant had bleeding in his brain consistent with “blunt force trauma.”

Smith’s defense attorney, Stephen Aarons, filed a motion in November seeking to have the charges dismissed on grounds that her rights to a speedy trial and discovery of evidence had been violated. Among other things, he argued that it took prosecutors about a year to produce Children Youth and Family Department records that could include evidence that the infant’s mother had abused him.

State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer postponed her decision on that motion during a hearing Tuesday, saying she needed to review the Children Youth and Family Department records before ruling.

Aarons also filed a motion challenging one of the state’s expert witnesses, saying the proposed witness’s opinions on “shaken baby syndrome” as it relates to pinpointing when the child received the fatal injury are not typical and have been contradicted in literature that says determining time of injury is the unreliable “Achilles heel” of forensic pathology.

Sommer also postponed ruling on that motion Tuesday, directing Aarons and Assistant District Attorney Larissa Breen to expand written briefs on the issue before the judge considers the matter again next month