Toms River Babysitter Awaits Trial for Toddler’s Murder
The Toms River 44-year-old who emerged as the prime suspect in the death of a 14-month-old boy she minded regularly now heads for trial, accused of delivering the fatal injuries.
Michelle A. Heale was indicted today on charges of murder and endangering the welfare of a child, in Monmouth County Superior Court in Freehold. The venue was moved from Ocean County because Heale's husband and the baby's father work in the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.
Investigators say Heale watched young Mason Hess a few times a week for several months before her August 28 call to Toms River police to report that the infant had trouble breathing.
Police and emergency medical technicians found the boy unresponsive and unconscious. He was first hospitalized in Toms River, then flown to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. On August 31, examiners there detected severe brain, spinal and retinal damage. The baby died September 1.
An autopsy by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office determined the cause of death to be blunt cerebral trauma, and labeled it a homicide.
Heale remains free on $250,000 bail. A conviction on the murder charge would mean a sentence of 30 years to life. According to acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Grammiccioni, the maximum penalty would not be considered unless the jury determined that she committed the murder by her own hand, and that aggravating factors were present.
The child-endangerment count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on conviction.
A trial date has yet to be set.