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Infant killed over autism fear, police say

Associated Press / June 9, 2010

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BOULDER, Colo. — Police said a woman accused of killing her infant son did it because she believed the boy was autistic and thought his condition would “ruin’’ her life.

Stephanie Rochester, 34, was charged Monday with murder in the June 1 suffocation death of her 6-month-old son, Rylan. According to an affidavit seeking her arrest, Rochester wanted to commit suicide but didn’t want to “burden her husband’’ with the potentially autistic boy.

The affidavit says that the night before the infant died, Stephanie and Lloyd Rochester “talked about how they wanted to have fun in life.’’

“Stephanie said that she knew they would not have fun while they were caring for a severely autistic child,’’ according to the affidavit, written by Boulder County sheriff’s Detective Mark Spurgeon.

The woman told police she had worked with autistic children as a hospital counselor and believed her son had the developmental disorder, which affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Pediatricians said Rylan was progressing normally.

Stephanie Rochester’s lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.

Spurgeon wrote that the night Rylan died, his mother placed three baby blankets on top of his face, then went downstairs to plan a vacation to Cape Cod with her husband. She got up around 2:30 a.m. and put more blankets over the baby, police said.

At about 6 a.m., Stephanie Rochester took the blankets off Rylan’s head and “just lost it when she realized what she had done,’’ according to the affidavit. She and Lloyd Rochester took Rylan to Avista Hospital in Louisville, where he was pronounced dead.

Rochester was being held on suicide watch. She’s due back in court for a status conference June 24 and is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Sept. 8.

Rochester’s friends and family, including her mother, were in the courtroom Monday, but her husband was not.

District Attorney Stan Garnett told the Daily Camera newspaper that he is unlikely to seek the death penalty in the case.

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