A special prosecutor announced he has dropped a murder charge against a Harrison County man charged with causing the death of a 14-month-old child in February 2011, but said he will not be dropping the case entirely.
Michael Parker said he will present the case involving Christopher Sheppard of Hepzibah to the Lewis County grand jury when it convenes in July. He did not specify what charges he will pursue against Sheppard.
Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Smith served as Sheppard's court-appointed defense attorney after Sheppard's arrest in 2011. Smith was elected the prosecuting attorney in November 2012.
According to the criminal complaint, Sheppard was reportedly baby-sitting the child on Feb. 22, 2011, in a Jane Lew apartment, and the complaint alleged that Sheppard left the child unattended in a sink while giving the child a bath. The child reportedly fell out of the sink, landing on his head.
The complaint stated that Sheppard told investigators that he believed the child to be choking and began administering CPR. The child's ribs were allegedly broken in the process, according to the complaint.
When the child's mother returned home, she reportedly tried to awaken the child using a cold wash cloth and a frozen juice can, according to the complaint. The child remained unresponsive, and the mother called 911 for help. The child was taken to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital in Weston and later transferred to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown. The complaint stated that the child died during surgery, and the cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma to the brain.
According to the complaint, Sheppard allegedly told investigators he was afraid to call for help because he had just recently posted bond to get out of jail on a Harrison County charge, and that being in Lewis County was a violation of the terms of that bond.
Medical records indicated that the child had 16 freshly broken ribs, along with other ribs that were in the process of healing, according to the complaint. The child also had multiple bruises and mouth injuries, the complaint stated.