Father of baby killed in 2001 talks about new trial for convicted babysitter

David Sheets is the father of Brittney who died in 2001. A jury convicted her babysitter of causing the death but now a new trial has been ordered.

David Sheets remembers. "There are a lot of things that we miss," Dave told 13 WHAM's Jane Flasch.

He holds dear thoughts of his little girl who will remain forever 2 1/2 years old.

"She was a great little girl," Dave said.

Now Sheets must also relive Brittney's last day on earth: June 6, 2001.

He dropped her off at daycare at 8:30 in the morning. Something happened before 3:30 that afternoon that would cause her to suffer severe head trauma.

At trial, medical experts say the injuries to the 23 pound toddler were equal to her being shaken violently 10 to 20 times.

"Tremendous head injuries. Tremendous injuries to her eyes, brain bleed, swelling," Assistant District Attorney Sara Van Strydonck said. "These are all classic injuries of a child that has been shaken." Prosecutors made the case that the injuries could not have been caused anyone else in any other way.

David Sheets was in the courtroom to hear the graphic description.

"Just hearing that again brings back the old wounds," Dave said. "I don't really have the words to explain it."

Sixteen years ago, a jury held babysitter Rene Bailey responsible for those injuries. In 2016, a judge set aside the verdict because theories about shaken baby deaths advanced since 2001 might have resulted in a different verdict. The victim's father is devastated.

"I don't think there is any reason she shouldn't be in jail," Dave said.

At a hearing last year, medical experts hired by Bailey's attorney argued at a hearing that Brittney did not suffer neck injuries, which almost certainly would have happened if she had been violently shaken. They testified new science might suggest that her death might have been caused by a fall or even by certain illnesses.

Bailey had said the child fell off a chair that was 18 inches tall and struck her head on the carpeted floor. Her attorney Adel Berhnard said at the time of the trial the experts were wrong.

"Even though Ms. Bailey said it was a fall and the witness said it was a fall and it sounded like a fall they said well you're wrong," Berhnard said. "(They said) we're scientists, that couldn't have happened so you must not be telling the truth."

Judge James Piampiano ruled the argument was enough to set aside the verdict. Bailey's attorney fought against a new trial and argued the time she had already served in prison was punishment enough.

The Monroe County District Attorney instead will re-try the case. First a new judge must rule whether it must first be sent back the the grand jury to essentially start over from scratch. That decision is expected in May.

David Sheets supports the new prosecution and will testify though it will be painful for him.

"Justice for Brittney," he said. "We lost her a long time ago and to not get that justice would be tragic.

Sheets shared that his daughter would have turned 19 this year. Her father grieves for her and for what her future might have held.

"To graduate high school, start college, find out what her dreams were - I'll never get to walk her down the aisle," he tearfully said.

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