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Columbus woman released after shaken baby conviction: how did we get here

Friday marks the first full day of freedom for Kim Hoover-Moore after spending nearly two decades behind bars.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — No one will truly ever know who killed 9-month-old Samaisha Benson. That is the message from Franklin County First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Janet Grubb.

Because of changing evidence and deceased key figures in the case, a Columbus woman is now free, and there are no plans to try anyone else for the 2002 death of the baby.

After years of proclaiming her innocence, Kim Hoover-Moore spent her first full day as a free woman on Friday. She was released after she was granted a new trial and her conviction was overturned.

In the motion for a new trial, the Office of the Public Defender wrote that the former deputy coroner, Dr. Patrick Fardal, recanted some of his previous trial testimony and amended his opinions in light of advances in medical knowledge and research regarding shaken baby syndrome.

“As a result, Dr. Fardal is now of the opinion that Samaisha was not shaken or injured in Ms. Hoover-Moore’s care, but suffered a remote (old) head injury that caused her skull fracture and rebled 4-5 days before her death. Pediatric forensic pathologist Dr. Janice Ophoven and radiologist Dr. Gregory Shoukimas agree. Upon their review of the case, they found proof of the old injury and an absence of evidence that would indicate Samaisha was injured while in Ms. Hoover-Moore’s care.”

Despite a judge granting that new trial, it won’t happen. A team of seven attorneys with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the case and decided that it was the “honorable” thing to do, based up on the new evidence and the fact that Hoover-Moore already had served the minimum sentence, to drop the charges.

But there also are no plans to try anyone else for the baby’s death. Grubb said the baby’s father, who once was under suspicion in the case, is now dead, as is one of the doctors who originally examined baby Samaisha. Without those two key figures, plus Dr. Fardal’s change of opinion, Grubb said there would be difficulty in re-establishing guilt.

Grubb said prosecutors met with Samaisha’s mother in person to share the news. She added that they are very sorry for the mother’s pain and also very sorry that a potentially innocent person spent years behind bars.

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