Daycare worker convicted of shaking infant to death

Cleveland County Justice Center

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A former Oklahoma daycare owner was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2016 death of an infant left in her care.

Jurors convicted Melissa Dawn Clark, 47, and recommended she serve life in prison with the chance of parole, the Norman Transcript reported. She will be sentenced Dec. 13.

Clark had pleaded not guilty in the death of 4-month-old Braelyn Zachary. Prosecutors said Clark shook the infant at her daycare center in Noble, about 30 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

Clark has said she accidentally dropped the baby.

Neuropathologist Dr. Roland Auer testified for the defense Wednesday that the child’s injuries could not have been caused just by being shaken. But pediatrician Dr. Sarah Passmore testified for prosecutors that “shaking was likely involved” in the child’s death.

The Oklahoma medical examiner’s office found the child died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Investigators said Clark offered several explanations of how the child was injured, including that she tripped while holding the girl, that she dropped the girl and that she threw her into a bouncy seat while frustrated.

Clark was originally charged with child abuse after police discovered the baby unresponsive in July 2016.

The charge was changed to first-degree murder when the child died about a week later.

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