Calgary Sun

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Father who smothered his baby denied bail

Shanabarger told police he planned the crime to punish his wife


FRANKLIN, Ind. -- A man who police said told them he took revenge against his wife by purposely fathering her child and then killing the boy was ordered held without bail on a murder charge yesterday.

Ronald Lee Shanabarger, wearing a brown flak jacket over a jail jumpsuit, mumbled brief answers at a court hearing when he was appointed a public defender and told he will remain in jail until his Nov. 30 trial.

Shanabarger told police he planned the crime to punish his wife, who had refused to cut short a cruise vacation after his father died in October 1996.

On June 22, just hours after the funeral of his seven-month-old son, Tyler, Shanabarger told to his wife he smothered their son in his crib three nights earlier, investigators said. A coroner had ruled the infant died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The day after the funeral, Shanabarger, 30, allegedly told police he suffocated Tyler with plastic wrap.

When the judge asked if Shanabarger had enough money to hire his own lawyer, he said, "I'd have to check with my wife."

The judge suggested help is unlikely to come from his wife, Amy Shanabarger, and assigned public defender Richard Tandy to represent Shanabarger.

"I was with him for a minute and a half. I really don't know enough about him to say anything," said Tandy, who planned to meet with his client to discuss a defence for a man who has allegedly confessed three times.

In Indiana, those accused of murder can't bail out of jail.

Those who murder a child are eligible for capital punishment.

Authorities must collect evidence, talk with police, prosecutors, defence counsel and Amy Shanabarger.

Rev. Randy Maynard met with Shanabarger in jail. He said the suspect was rattling off a list of things he had lost -- his job, his house, his money, his wife, his friends. "I said: 'And you lost Tyler too,' " Maynard noted.

" 'Oh yeah, I lost the boy too.'

"That was it for me. He said the wrong thing. I was out of there."

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.