Alyssa O’Shell died of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) on October 28th, 2008. The little girl was taken away from her family in June of that year after doctors reported the parents for suspected child abuse when the baby presented at the hospital with 11 bone fractures.
William O’Shell , Alyssa’s father and a respected police officer, slowly descended into a world of depression and woe while facing felony charges, and eventually took his own life and that of his wife, Tiffany. On the same day of the killings, a doctor at the hospital where the findings were reported confirmed his earlier suspicions about the infant. Alyssa hadn’t been abused; she was suffering from SMA, a disease that fractured her bones even with normal, gentle handling. The revelation came too late, only adding to the pain of an already grieving family.
Alyssa was later given over to the care of her grandparents—though social services tried to deny them—and she eventually died from her disease.
Four years after the tragedy, Alyssa’s grandparents have unsuccessfully tried to bring lawsuits against child services in Colorado, claiming they assumed William and Tiffany guilty and wanted them to be proven innocent when it should have been the other way around.
During the one supervised visit the O’Shells were allowed with Alyssa before their deaths, social services “confirmed” the child abuse because the baby turned her head away from the parents three times during the visitation.
The grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Cuin, state they want no money; they want an investigation into the practices of the social service department in Colorado. Paul Cuin told Good Morning America, “We pleaded with the doctor at Children’s Hospital and social service to look for something else other than child abuse. They should have waited and not jumped to conclusions. They were wonderful parents. We never had a single doubt in our minds [over whether] abuse was involved. We knew from the beginning, they loved that baby.”
Though the Cuins are not able to forgive William O’Shell for taking the life of their daughter, they understand the pressures he was under, and have made it their mission to spread the word about SMA.
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