Shontelle Cavanaugh has been in custody for almost five years.
She could soon taste freedom again after a jury on Monday found her not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and
not guilty by reason of insanity of felony murder, a verdict that brought her relatives to tears.
happy. I’m elated,” said Cavanaugh’s smiling mother, Gina James. “I feel it was the right verdict.”
Cavanaugh, a 28-year-old Pontiac woman, was charged with murder in the June 6, 2005, smothering death of her 9-month-old
Assistant Prosecutor Brett Chudler told jurors that Simone had become an inconvenience to Cavanaugh
and she deliberately killed her baby. Defense attorney Richard Convertino said Cavanaugh, who had been diagnosed with postpartum
depression, had a psychotic breakdown.
During a trial that began in late March and included a two-week break,
both sides presented mental health professionals who offered differing opinions on Cavanaugh’s state of mind at the
time of Simone’s death.
On Monday, the second day of deliberations, jurors sent a note a few minutes before
4:30 p.m. announcing that they had reached a verdict.
Cavanaugh’s relatives melted into tears and hugged
each other upon hearing the jury’s decision.
“Thank God!” one woman said.
asked Oakland Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot to remand Cavanaugh to the department of mental health for an evaluation. She
granted the motion.
Convertino plans to file a motion seeking Cavanaugh’s immediate release.
“Congratulations,” the judge said to Cavanaugh and her supporters at the conclusion of the hearing.
Convertino said he was thrilled with the verdict.
“I’m so glad we had a careful, conscientious and
thoughtful jury,” he said.
Convertino took on the case pro bono. He said his wife Valerie Convertino, who
has two Master’s degrees in nursing, was instrumental in sorting through and deciphering medical records.
Convertino said he believes the careful review of records that showed that some testimony was inaccurate, incomplete or
distorted helped win the case.
James, Cavanaugh’s mother, returned home on June 6, 2005 to find Simone
unresponsive in Cavanaugh’s arms. Cavanaugh told authorities she put her hand over the baby’s face.
Since Cavanaugh has been in custody, James has primarily interacted with her daughter through Plexiglas or monitors.
As Cavanaugh was being led out of the courtroom Monday, James asked if she could finally touch her daughter. A sheriff’s
deputy told her no.
But James is hopeful that her daughter will be home soon.
going to hug her, hold her,” she said.