Woman arrested in 1992 death of infant boy

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - August 22, 2011

Melissa Haskell, 38, of Bridgeport was arrested Saturday and charged with third-degree murder in the death of 5-month-old Ryan Bauerly. She was ordered held without bail at the Montgomery County prison pending a preliminary hearing Aug. 30.

"The very recent developments in this investigation has once again ripped open the wounds that are very difficult to heal for our family," the victim's father Michael Baurley said.

Haskell, who was Ryan's baby sitter from the time he was a month old, was alone with him in his family's Upper Merion Township home when he died Aug. 26, 1992, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Monday.

Haskell, then 19, told police she found Ryan unresponsive in his crib, and the county coroner's office concluded the cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome.

Authorities received a tip in April from someone claiming Haskell admitted suffocating the baby. Police said they reopened the investigation and recorded a conversation in which Haskell described putting her hand over the infant's mouth and killing him.

Ferman said Haskell, who was battling heroin withdrawal, became frustrated with the crying baby.

"She was having trouble caring for the child and she was not able to deal with the child crying and a typical infant behavior because of her own personal difficulties," Ferman said.

Despite the sudden infant death syndrome ruling, the 1992 coroner's report did note that Ryan had bruising consistent with suffocation, as well as a blood alcohol level of .04 percent. Adults are considered too drunk to drive with a level higher than .08 percent.

After reviewing the original autopsy findings along with additional medical information and new information gathered during the investigation, the county coroner changed its report to conclude Ryan was killed by suffocation with acute alcohol intoxication as a contributing factor.

Haskell was in prison and unavailable for comment. It could not be immediately determined whether she had an attorney.

Meantime, Ryan Baurley's family was asking for privacy as they tried to deal with these devastating developments on their child's death.

"He was our first son and he was a beautiful child, a gift from God and we miss him dearly," Michael Baurley said.

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