Delayed Trial for Accused Baby Shaker Set to Begin

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JEFFERSON CITY - The three-time-delayed jury trial for a Taos woman charged with child abuse of a seven-month-old baby in her care is set to begin Monday following more than two years of delays. A pre-trial conference is also scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce's clerk confirmed with KOMU 8 News Tuesday that the conference concerning defendant Shelley Richter will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Joyce's courtroom.  The clerk said she could not disclose whether Richter must attend the hearing, in which attorneys will meet with the judge to finalize trial rules and possibly reach a settlement or plea deal.

According to the probable cause statement, Richter was babysitting infant Lane Schaefer on Aug. 19, 2010 around noon, when she claims she accidentally tripped and dropped the child at her former day care--located at her home on Helias Drive in Taos.  When the child grew limp in her arms, Richter said she called a neighbor to help before calling 911 or Schaefer's family.

Cole County prosecutors charged Richter in September 2010 with abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child--class B and C felonies, respectively.  The child abuse charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and the endangering the welfare of a child charge is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Since prosecutors filed the charges, Richter's son confirmed to KOMU 8 News in 2012, Richter closed her day care immediately after the incident and since has obtained a job unrelated to child care.

Last February, KOMU 8 News obtained an exclusive interview with Schaefer's aunt--Julie Schaefer--who said shortly after the incident, doctors confirmed the boy had suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome.  His injuries, according to Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson in a 2010 interview, included a subdural hematoma and severe retinal hemorrhages.

Julie Schaefer told KOMU 8 News that as a result of his injuries, her nephew is permanently blind.  Lane Schaefer turned three years old in January.

In 2012, Richter's son Andrew said although he could not answer specific questions about his mother, he did echo what many neighbors have said--that his mother is "a good person." Richter's niece Ashley Smith, who lives next door, said Richter's attorneys have advised the family not to talk to the media. One neighbor, whose grandchildren Richter formerly babysat, said, "I feel sorry for her. She doesn't have a life right now." Another said, "I think she's a nice lady, and I don't believe any of that."

A voicemail to Richter's attorney Shane Farrow went unreturned Tuesday afternoon.  Calls to Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson's office also went unanswered.