What Happened to Christopher: An American Family's Story of Shaken Baby Syndrome

What Happened to Christopher: An American Family's Story of Shaken Baby Syndrome

What Happened to Christopher: An American Family's Story of Shaken Baby Syndrome

What Happened to Christopher: An American Family's Story of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Synopsis

A tragedy and a trial placed Ann-Janine Morey in an ideal position to write this wrenching exploration of the havoc wreaked on a family by Shaken Baby Syndrome. As an alternate juror in a 1995 murder trial in Murphysboro, Illinois, she observed a case that has become too common: that of an adult caregiver shaking to death a baby. A seasoned researcher and published scholar, in this book Morey witnesses the court proceedings firsthand, comes to know the families of the toddler intimately, and augments her observations and interviews through research into Shaken Baby Syndrome. The result is an agonizingly human tale supported by the evidence of science, sociology, and criminology.

Morey's What Happened to Christopher memorializes the short life of nineteen-month-old Christopher Attig (1992-1994). To reveal what Christopher meant to those closest to him, Morey conducts extensive interviews with the child's parents and grandparents. She also interviews the officials involved in the case to set the scene from a legal and police angle. Gary Lynn Gould, who was convicted of and imprisoned for killing Christopher, did not answer Morey's requests for interviews.

Morey characterizes her investigation as a "story of quiet horror because it takes place in a way and a setting that could be any town and many families". Nonetheless, Morey's narrative skill transforms Christopher into much more than an ordinary child, senselessly slain. He is Christopher, irreplaceable and unique. And by the time she reconstructs Christopher's final days and the aftermath of his murder, Morey has depicted the principals in the case so deftly and imbued them with such humanity that we experience their torment and their hope.

Morey also provides a juror's insight into the trial. By showing what happened to Christopher Attig and by presenting the accumulated findings relative to Shaken Baby Syndrome, she seeks through education to help

Excerpt

In December 1994, Angela Rubin, then humanities librarian at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library, knowing about my emerging project on child death, sent me a memorial notice she had clipped from the Southern Illinoisan. "I found this very touching," she wrote to me. It was a picture of a little boy dressed in his Santa hat, surrounded by presents. Even in the grainy newsprint, his round face is glowing and eager, full of holiday anticipation. "In loving memory of our precious Christopher Michael Attig who would have been two years old today, Wednesday, December 7, 1994. Sadly missed, The Attig family and friends," read the accompanying text. I didn't know anything about this little boy and remember thinking that maybe he died of some childhood illness. I put the clipping in my growing file on child death, uncertain why I was keeping it but unwilling to throw it away.

I continued my scholarly work on a new project, a study of women's literary representations of child death, and I began anticipating my sabbatical by reviewing and collecting the range of fictional and academic sources I would need to develop my project.

Then in March 1995 I was called up for jury duty, something that had never happened to me. Reluctantly, I made room on my calendar, reasoning that since one week of my duty was during our spring break, it would be easy enough to improvise during the second week, when classes would again be in session. I was counting on either not getting selected or else serving for some brisk, one- or two-day trial. I received lots of advice from friends and colleagues on how to evade my civic responsibility: dress like a hippie; tell them you believe everyone is guilty . . .

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