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Olga Shved

Other Female Exoneration Cases with False Forensics
On June 16, 2006, 23-year-old Olga Shved called 911 after her four-month-old daughter, Ella, began choking while she was giving the baby water with an eyedropper in Pasco, Washington.

A pediatrician examined Ella and x-rays revealed two skull fractures—one of which appeared to have occurred only a few hours earlier. Further x-rays disclosed other fractures—an arm, a rib and in Ella’s legs—ranging in age from a few weeks to a couple of months. Bruises on the child’s face appeared to be covered with cosmetic makeup.

A police detective questioned Shved. At first she denied knowing anything about Ella’s injuries, but later said she had dropped the baby twice while bathing her. In January 2007, Shved was charged with first-degree assault of a child. Her husband, Boris, was charged with failing to report the child’s injuries, a misdemeanor. Child welfare officials then removed Ella and Ella’s 2½-year-old brother from the Shved home.

In October 2007, the James County District Attorney dismissed the charge against Boris. Shved went to trial in November 2009. Ella had been born two months premature after a difficult, vacuum-assisted delivery, according to testimony. Ella remained in the hospital for several weeks until she was strong enough to go home. Shved was hospitalized for a week, but after she was released, she suffered disabling headaches and difficulty walking because her thighs swelled two to three times their normal size.

Shved was Ella’s primary caretaker. During visits to the family doctor in March and April and on May 23, 2006, Ella was pronounced in good health and growing, although by June she still only weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces.

Physicians at the hospital testified that they found numerous fractures to Ella’s limbs, skull and rib that could only have happened if the child were dropped or slammed or twisted. However, none of the injuries were considered life threatening. One physician testified that there was “no possibility” that the injuries were accidental.

The defense contended that Shved’s adult brother, who had mental health problems, was violent, and was living with the Shved family, had injured Ella. Shved testified in her own defense and denied harming the child. She said the cosmetic on the child’s face was medicated and that she used it because the baby was constantly scratching her face; medical records confirmed that she had told her pediatrician about that condition during a visit earlier in the year.

On November 17, 2009, a jury convicted Shved of one count of first-degree assault on a child. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In August 2011, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the jury had been erroneously instructed on two possible means of committing the assault—through domestic violence, or through deliberate cruelty or torture—even though the indictment only charged Shved with domestic violence.

Shved, who was released on bond after the reversal, went to trial a second time in early 2014 and elected to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. The prosecution presented testimony about Ella’s injuries from the physicians who testified at the first trial. One physician testified that the breaks would have required more force than that required to snap an uncooked chicken bone.

The defense called medical experts that had not been called as witnesses in Shved’s first trial: Patrick Barnes, a pediatric neurologist at Stanford University Medical Center and an expert in head and other trauma in infants, and Dr. Charles Hyman, a former professor of pediatrics at Loma Linda University.

Barnes and Hyman testified that based on their examination of Ella, she was suffering from a condition known as “diffusely demineralized bones” which meant that her bones were far more fragile than normal bones. She also suffered from seizures, which caused her to thrash about—and likely caused of the bone fractures, according to their testimony.

On February 21, 2014, Franklin County District Court Judge Vic Vanderschoor acquitted Shved. Vanderschoor found epileptic seizures combined with Ella’s bone disease—as well as the vacuum-assisted delivery during Ella’s birth—were the cause of Ella’s injuries.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/31/2014
State:Washington
County:Franklin
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2009
Exonerated:2014
Sentence:10 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:23
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No