October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Coroner rules premature baby’s death was homicide

ELYRIA — The death of a baby delivered by Caesarean section at just 22 weeks gestation after her mother shot herself in the stomach has been ruled a homicide, the Cuyahoga County coroner said.

Frank Miller said the infant girl born to a 36-year-old Elyria woman died from premature birth caused by a gunshot wound to the uterus.

“To us, homicide simply means death caused by the actions of another. In this case, the baby was born because the womb was struck by a bullet,” Miller said.

The infant’s mother was 22 weeks pregnant when she turned a semiautomatic pistol on herself outside a local bar shortly after 8 p.m. Sept. 1, police said.

She was rushed by ambulance to EMH Regional Medical Center and then was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. The baby was not hit by the bullet but was delivered three days after the shooting on Sept. 4.

It is still undetermined if the mother will face criminal charges in the shooting.

Elyria police Lt. Andy Eichenlaub said investigators are waiting on official medical records from the coroner’s office, which will be forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office to determine if charges should be filed. Eichenlaub would not comment on the case, saying it is still under investigation.

Miller said the official report should be sent by early November. However, investigators have been told of his ruling.

The baby, who was later named Samantha Ann and honored by family members with a private burial service, weighed less than a pound and was about 10 inches long when she was born, Miller said.

She was just barely considered a viable fetus. The baby did breathe after delivery —surviving for two hours and seven minutes after her birth — but her lungs were extremely underdeveloped, Miller said.

Police say the incident that led to the shooting happened near a bar on the 500 block of Clark Street. A woman at Chris’ Place told police the woman walked into the bar and whispered something to a man inside the bar. The man and the woman then left, and the shooting occurred in the neighboring parking lot minutes later, the witness told police.

The pregnant woman was found by LifeCare paramedics bleeding in the bed of a pickup in the parking lot.

According to a police report, several people witnessed the shooting, and at least three people, including the pregnant woman, were tested for gunshot residue.

A .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a spent round were taken from the bed of the truck as evidence.

Police later determined that the woman shot herself.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.