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Mother accused of shaking infant son

That and another baby's death occur as a non-profit agency is set to take over protective services for children of troubled families.

By TAMARA LUSH and RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Four-month-old Anthony Keller cried continuously Sunday afternoon. His mother, 17-year-old Christina Keller, just wanted him to stop.

So, according to authorities, Keller held Anthony around the chest and shook him with such force that the infant's head snapped back and forth. The boy had a seizure and suffered eye hemorrhaging and a bruised brain; doctors had to drain fluid from his head to relieve the pressure.

On Wednesday, Pasco County Sheriff's deputies charged Keller as a juvenile with aggravated child abuse. She is being held without bail at the county's juvenile detention center.

Anthony is at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, but hospital staff declined to release his condition. A family friend who answered the phone at Keller's home in Holiday on Thursday said the baby is "doing well."

About 20 percent of babies injured in shaking incidents die, and those who survive sometimes suffer handicaps ranging from learning disorders to profound mental and developmental retardation, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Sheriff's deputies also are investigating the death of an infant girl in New Port Richey.

Kristy DeRosa died Saturday, one day shy of her 2-month birthday.

According to a deputy's report, Paul DeRosa took Kristy into bed, and he fell asleep next to his daughter.

The baby's mother, Amanda Miller, woke him up shortly before midnight, screaming: "Your arm is covering the baby!" Miller and DeRosa realized the baby was not breathing, and someone -- it's unclear who -- called paramedics.

A neighbor who works at a day care and knows CPR heard the screaming, and ran over to help.

The neighbor and Miller tried to revive the baby until paramedics arrived. Kristy was taken to North Bay Hospital, where she died.

A doctor told a deputy that his examination "provided nothing out of the ordinary or nothing suspicious."

Sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers would not say whether detectives classified the baby's death as "suspicious" and would not comment on whether charges are pending.

DeRosa, 34, and Miller, 21, had been receiving state services for a "lack of parenting skills," a state Department of Children and Families spokesman said Thursday.

The investigation into the death of their child comes as Pasco becomes part of a landmark social services experiment involving families like theirs. Children and Families is turning over its protective services for children of troubled families to a non-profit agency. This week, Pasco County will become the third county in Florida to try "community-based care."

Tom Jones, a spokesman for the state agency, said the death of Kristy DeRosa illustrates the difficulties that lie ahead for Family Continuity Program, the St. Petersburg-based agency contracted to oversee most services.

"It points out the difficulty of the job whether it be the state or a private agency," Jones said. "They're going to be faced with making some of the same decisions."

DeRosa and Miller volunteered to join the state's early intervention program after their baby was born Jan. 31, Jones said. Early intervention is the lowest level of services offered by the state agency.

"This is not a case where there was terrible abuse ongoing," Jones said.

Jones would not comment on the oversight of DeRosa, Miller and their baby, but he said early intervention can consist of parenting skills classes, drug tests, drug abuse programs and other counseling.

These services are provided to families deemed to be at risk. The harshest scenario for a family in this program would be to have their child removed and taken into foster care.

- Times researchers Kitty Bennett and Cathy Wos contributed to this story.

-- Tamara Lush is the police reporter in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. Her e-mail address is lush@sptimes.com.

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