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Speaking out on shaken babies

A woman whose granddaughter died in her arms tells parents about a major cause of death by abuse for children.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 10, 2001


HUDSON -- Just before Janet Goree's 3-year-old granddaughter Kimber died in her arms, Goree made a promise to the little girl.

She pledged that she would tell everyone how Kimber died, in hopes of saving another child.

Kimber died five years ago from shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her father. On Monday, Goree spoke to 50 people at the fourth annual Child Abuse Awareness Ceremony at the Hudson Library.

"They say the easiest way to get away with murder is to shake a baby," said Goree, who lives in Clearwater. "When Kimber was born, I thought about what her future would be like. Because of as little as five seconds of uncontrolled frustration, we will never know."

Goree's remarks were all too timely: Last week, the Pasco Sheriff's Office charged a 17-year-old girl with child abuse for allegedly shaking her 4-month-old baby.

The boy, who is being treated at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, is doing "much better," said Sgt. John Corbin of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

"We still don't know the long-term effects," Corbin said.

Approximately 20 percent of babies who are shaken die. Those who survive often suffer mental, physical and emotional handicaps. Goree's granddaughter suffered her injuries in Virginia, when she was 6 weeks old, and died in Clearwater shortly before her third birthday. Kimber's father, who admitted shaking her, was placed on probation.

Shaken baby syndrome is the leading cause of death by abuse in Florida, said Goree, who organizes seminars and trains parents about the dangers of shaking a baby.

During Monday's ceremony, members of the Pasco Family Protection Team dedicated a bench outside the library in memory of the county's children lost because of abuse and neglect.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Pasco sheriff's deputies have placed blue ribbons on their cruiser antennas to raise awareness.

"Hopefully, it will wake up some parents to pay more attention to their kids," Corbin said.

- Tamara Lush can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6245. Her e-mail address is lush@sptimes.com.

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