Elgin father acquitted in infant girls death

Robin Anne Roe

A 25-year-old Elgin man sobbed when a Kane County jury found him not guilty late Thursday of first-degree murder in the shaking death of his infant daughter.

Attorneys for the defendant, Keith Townsend, did not dispute that Townsend was watching his daughter in her mother's apartment on January 4, 1996. Nor did they dispute that Townsend had shaken the girl.

Alexis Townsend, 38 days old, died two days later at the Rockford Memorial Hospital from what prosecutors said was "shaken baby syndrome."

But defense attorney David Camic argues that Townsend had shaken the girl in an effort to revive her.

"This case is not about shaken baby," Camic said. "This is not about blunt trauma. It's not about good parenting skills and acting appropriately."

Testimony in the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Philip DiMarzio showed that Alexis suffered retinal hemorrhaging, bruising beneath the scalp, and swelling of the brain.

The baby's mother, Rebecca San Juan, 20, had testified that her daughter was "whiny" that morning and throwing up. "She was not Alexis," San Juan said.

In his closing argument, Camic pointed to court testimony that showed the child had slept and not eaten from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. that day, indicating that the child was not healthy.

Camic also replayed the 911 tape of Townsend's frantic call for help in making his case for reasonable doubt:

"My daughter, she won't wake up! She stopped breathing and I keep, I shake her and she won't wake up...She's not, she's not breathing...Oh my God!...Am I going to lose her?"

Camic said the tape showed "there's no evidence that Keith knew he was going to hurt his child, certainly no evidence that he intended to hurt his child, and nothing to indicate he was angry or frustrated."

Assistant State's Attorney John Barsanti offered a different explanation for Townsend's reaction. "He wants to say he's saving that baby's life, not watching her die gasping for breath," Barsanti said.

Jurors also rejected a finding of involuntary manslaughter.