Noel Quevedo

Noel Quevedo Case Summary


 

Accused and convicted of First-Degree murder for the death of his son Alejandro “Alex” Quevedo (DOB: 06/28/2003, DOD:  03/02/2004 eight-months-old).

Disputed medical diagnosis:  Shaken Baby Syndrome

To read the Medical Timeline click here

 

The day his son became symptomatic

On March 1, 2004, the day his son became symptomatic, Noel, 23, and his wife Cynthia, were the parents of two darling children.  Their oldest child, Noel Jr. was 22 months old, and baby Alex was 8 months old. Noel moved to Illinois from Mexico in 2000. They lived a typical suburban life in Aurora, Illinois, living at Noel’s brother-in-law’s finished basement. Noel was employed full-time job as a laborer for a masonry company and his wife stayed home with the children. They both spoke little English.

After Noel returned home from work, he and his wife and children went to visit his cousin’s home in North Aurora for dinner.  They returned home sometime after 9 p.m. His wife had an appointment the next morning to take Alex for a follow-up doctor’s appointment. She was washing baby bottles in the kitchen upstairs, while Noel volunteered to change Alex’s diaper in their basement living quarters. Alex began crying as Cynthia walked upstairs and continued to cry after Noel changed his diaper. The older son, Noel Jr., was also in the same room.

Noel rocked Alex in his arms to calm him, when suddenly Alex stopped crying.

It appeared the baby stopped breathing and his eyes rolled back to his head.  Noel cried out for his wife and placed the baby on the bed.  Using a piece of toilet paper, he applied rubbing alcohol to Alex’s nostrils and forehead. It is a common home remedy in Mexico he learned from his mother.  Cynthia came downstairs and picked up the baby.  She noticed his heart was not beating. Alex was unconscious. Cynthia panicked and screamed for help. Noel ran outside to start the car to go to the hospital.

While on the phone with 911, Noel’s brother-in-law was instructed how to perform CPR, using tips of his fingers to push the baby’s chest. The dispatcher also instructed him to check for obstructions that might be struck in his throat. Alex remained unconscious, but made a slight noise, like he was trying to breath.

Paramedics and police arrived very quickly. Alex was transported by ambulance to the hospital in Aurora. Noel rode to the hospital with police. Only medics were allowed inside the ambulance due to the severity of the baby’s condition.

Two detectives responded to Mercy Hospital. The patrol officer who drove Noel to the hospital told detectives that the baby had a similar incident three months earlier, in which he had stopped breathing, on November 27, 2003.  The patrol officer advised the detectives that the attending physician, Dr. Galle, reported there were no outward signs of abuse present. He also stated that this situation could be the result of the problems the infant was having with his kidneys. It was too early to tell.

However, another doctor at Mercy Hospital, told detectives that Alex’s condition was caused by shaking. Alex was placed on a respirator and was flown by helicopter to the pediatric intensive care unit at Lutheran General Hospital in downtown Chicago. The next morning at 8:15 a.m. a test showed that no blood was reaching Alex’s brain, and the child was pronounced dead. Both Cynthia and Noel were taken in for questioning by detectives as suspects in a homicide investigation.

Police interrogation and a false confession to protect Cynthia from arrest

When detectives arrived at the hospital, they conducted the initial interview of the mother and father.  Cynthia and Noel agreed to voluntarily come with them to the Aurora Police Department. The parents were transported separately, so they could not discuss the case.

The detectives consulted with Dr. Feldman, who was resident physician on duty at Lutheran General Hospital.  She advised them that the symptoms of brain swelling and bleeding, combined with retinal hemorrhaging, meant only one thing. She stated that this type of injury can only be sustained as the result of the infant having been shaken.

The detectives also spoke with the attending nurse at the same hospital, Lori Albanese.  She told them that parents were confronted with the fact that this child was the victim of shaken baby syndrome and “did not appear distressed at this news”.  However, they also spoke little English and perhaps did not understand what the doctor was saying.  There was no reference about an interpreter being present to translate what they were being told. 

The mother was questioned about the finding of a rib fracture on the infant.  She speculated on ways it may have happened.  However, medical intervention, like CPR, can result in rib fractures during chest compression.  

None of the witnesses interviewed by detectives said anything bad about both parents.  The baby’s aunt, living in the same house, mentioned that the baby had all kinds of problems with his health, she also had witnessed Alex choking for no reason, and remembered that Alex had similar convulsions before.  She also told detectives that Alex was having kidney problems since he was one-month-old and constantly running a fever. She remembers that Alex urine infections due to the problem with his kidneys and that doctors told mother if the infection gets worse it could go to his head.

Investigator Trujillo asked both Cynthia and Noel if they would comply with a polygraph examination, which they both agreed to take.  No polygraph was ever administered.

Police conducted three interrogations while Noel was in custody, all without counsel, even after making a request for a lawyer. The first interrogation began late in the evening, at 11:45 p.m. and lasted for one-hour and fifteen minutes. Noel told investigators he was tired and sleepy, and when he asked for a lawyer, he was told he cannot have lawyer at the moment.  That he would have to pay for a lawyer, since he was not yet being charged with a crime, and lawyers are appointed free of charge after a person is charged with a crime.  They also told Noel, that if he refuses to talk to them, they won’t get his side of the story. Noel agreed, saying “Okay, I will answer whatever you ask me.” He had nothing to hide.

Detective Frausto started by telling Noel that the nurses and doctors all said the child’s injuries could only have occurred by shaking the baby.  Well after midnight, Frausto announced, “Now, we have a baby that is dead, his brain is no longer working and he won’t pass tomorrow, explain to me, because you were the only person with a baby.” In shock, the grieving father denied abusing his baby boy. 

Then Detective Frausto repeatedly assured Noel how they can help him with his problems and anything he needs, because they don’t believe Noel is type of person that can cause harm or hurt a child.  He asked, “explain to me how was your child was shaken last night.”  He denied shaking his son.  After that, Detective Frausto suggested maybe his wife shook the baby.  Noel shook his head, indicating no, and stated that his wife could never do anything like that.

The second interrogation session began the next day, March 3rd, at 8:15 pm. Noel and his wife were taken to the hospital during the day to complete organ donation forms. During the second interview Noel already knew that his wife is also in the custody. Detective Trujillo told Noel that his wife might be charged with murder if he did not confess. Noel’s story did not change. Although he was told the interview would be audio recorded, detectives reported they had activated the recording for the wrong interrogation room, and no audio was produced in discovery.

The third interrogation began on March 3rd, 11:19 pm till 11:52pm, Noel took responsibility and confessed to the theory detectives had pressed him on. He made gestures of shaking the baby (in the same manner that Detectives had gestured with plush teddy bear toy in their prior interviews). When asked if he believes that his wife Cynthia should be charges, Noel said no.

Arrest and conviction

On June 14, 2004, State filed a four-count indictment. Count I alleged that the defendant shook Alex, knowing that such acts created a strong probability of death. Count II alleged that defendant shook Alex with intent to do great bodily harm. Count III alleged that defendant shook Alex, knowing that such acts would cause death. Count IV alleged that defendant shook Alex, knowing that such acts created a strong probability of great bodily harm. Following a bench trial, Noel was convicted of the first-degree murder of his eight-month son Alex following a bench trial on . The trial court imposed a mandatory term of life imprisonment. The State’s theory of the case was that the defendant shook Alex to death. Noel denied shaking.

According to Dr. Robert Shuman, the defense expert, Alex suffered a seizure resulting from brain damage from neonatal meningitis that had been diagnosed several months earlier.

After so many years his wife moved on and has another family, does not keep in touch with Noel in prison, but to this day she does not believe that Noel hurt the baby.

“Shaken Baby Syndrome: The New Innocence Project”

A few years after Noel Quevedo was sent to prison, the Wisconsin Innocence Project secured the exoneration of daycare provider Audrey Edmonds in 2008, who spent more than a decade in prison.[1]  Law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer published a seminal law review article called The Next Innocence Project: Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Criminal Courts, which described the magnitude of the problem:

Given the scientific developments described, we may surmise that a sizeable portion of the universe of defendants convicted of SBS-based crimes is, in all likelihood, factually innocent.[2]

 

However, more than a decade later, police agencies throughout the country continue to rely on unproven scientific methods, such as Shaken Baby Syndrome, a controversial diagnosis that often leads to the indictment of innocent caregivers.  Law enforcement agencies and hospitals often fail to thoroughly investigate a differential diagnosis before arresting innocent parents and daycare providers who are accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome. 



[1] The work of the Wisconsin Innocence Project pioneered a new focus on Shaken Baby Syndrome cases.  The Wisconsin appellate court decision described a “fierce disagreement” among different disciplines within the medical community, which provided new evidence to overturn Edmond’s conviction.  State of Wisconsin v. Audrey A. Edmunds, 4th Dist. Court of Appeals slip opinion, Jan. 31, 2008, at p. 7.

[2] Deborah Tuerkheimer, The Next Innocence Project: Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Criminal Courts, Washington Law Review, vol 87 2009, pp. 1-58, at p. 22.