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Babysitter Accused of Nearly Killing 14-month-old Baby Acquitted - abc27 WHTM

Babysitter Accused of Nearly Killing 14-month-old Baby Acquitted

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Lynchburg, VA - It's the worst case of child abuse one doctor has ever seen.

The man accused of nearly shaking a 14-month old baby to death in 2009, walked out of court a free man Tuesday.

A Lynchburg judge acquitted John LaRue of aggravated malicious wounding, child abuse and child cruelty.

Prosecutors claimed John LaRue was babysitting Juliana Thaxton on January 29, 2009 when he became frustrated that she wouldn't stop crying. When his wife returned home, prosecutors say the baby was unresponsive. EMS crews arrived, tried CPR, and took the girl to the hospital.

Doctor's found bleeding on Juliana's brain, damaged brain tissue and retinal hemorrhages. The injuries were so severe, one doctor said it was the equivalent of getting into a high speed car wreck.

A jailhouse snitch, one of the commonwealth's key witnesses, testified that LaRue confessed to abusing the girl. The judge agreed with the defense that he wasn't a credible witness.

The judge said although he has his suspicions about what happened, only two people know what happened -- John LaRue or his wife. Neither had to testify against each other because of spousal immunity.

Today, Juliana Thaxton's five years old, can't see, can't speak and will suffer from the injuries for the rest of her life.

Prosecutors say this is like many child abuse cases, they're hard to prosecute.

"It happens typically behind closed doors and the victim cannot tell you what happened. I guess the only silver lining out of this is raising awareness so people know what to look for," said Bethany Harrison, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney.

Scott De Bruin represented LaRue at trial. He said the only reason the case made it to court was because of pressure from the victim's family.

"The case is no better today than it was four years ago," De Bruin added.

Joleen Thaxton, the victim's mother, released a statement: "As hard as it is to accept today's verdict, I know that it is irrelevant to Juliana's outcome. Juliana is still blind and unable to walk or talk. A guilty verdict would not have rectified the wrong done to her," she wrote.

Joleen Thaxton's also become an activist, educating parents on the signs of shaken baby syndrome. She hopes to save other children from suffering the same kind of abuse as her child.

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