Fighting back tears in the hushed courtroom where Sheryl Lynn Massip is being tried for murder, her former husband described Wednesday how she had told him hours after the death of their infant son “I killed the baby--I killed the baby.”
Casting an occasional glance at his former wife, Massip re-created for a jury of eight women and four men the events leading up to his wife’s confession on April 29, 1987.
Prosecutors say Sheryl Massip ran over her 6-week-old infant twice with her car and dumped the mangled body in a garbage can near her home in Anaheim. She then claimed to investigators--and initially to her husband--that the child had been snatched from her arms by a mystery woman with red hair and a gun.
Sheryl Massip does not deny killing her son but claims that she was temporarily insane, suffering from a rare maternal disorder known as postpartum psychosis. Her trial, in Superior Court in Santa Ana, is the first in Southern California in which a postpartum insanity defense has been raised.
Under cross-examination Wednesday, Alfredo Massip rebuffed efforts by defense attorney Milton C. Grimes to show that Sheryl was acting strangely before the killing. “She was herself,” he said firmly.
Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald prevented Grimes from questioning Alfredo Massip on several points that the defense attorney says would illustrate his client’s frail mental health at the time.
These points include contentions by the defense that, before the killing, Alfredo Massip took the bullets out of his gun because of his wife’s mental condition, that Sheryl Massip wanted to put her colicky son in the hospital but that Alfredo refused, and that the defendant was exhausted but got no help with the baby from her husband.
Grimes said he will raise these issues today, when he plans to recall Alfredo Massip to the stand as a witness for the defense.
Massip served his wife with divorce papers while she was in jail on the murder charge. Until his court appearance Wednesday, they had not seen each other in more than a year, her family said.
On Wednesday, Alfredo Massip testified that some inconsistencies made him suspicious of the kidnaping tale that Sheryl initially told him on the morning of their son’s death.
“Where’s the baby?” he recalled asking his wife when they were alone at the police station where investigators were checking out the kidnaping story. “She said, ‘I’ll rot in hell.’ . . . She said that three times.”
He said Sheryl Massip confessed to him that “ ‘I killed my baby, I killed my baby. . . . Go and tell them that I’m a murderer.’ ” He stopped occasionally during about an hour of testimony to take a drink of water and rub his watering eyes.
Sheryl Massip, meanwhile, sat motionless with her head in her hands during much of the testimony, rarely looking toward the witness stand. Surrounded by several friends and family during breaks in the trial, she sobbed quietly outside the courtroom.
“It was very tough on her seeing Alfredo up there on the stand,” said Tammy Park, a cousin. “She could not believe that he could actually look at her and testify against her. She was shocked.”
Sheryl Massip’s father, Ed DeLano of Rowland Heights, quoted her as saying to him during one trial break: “I can’t believe that anything like this could have happened to me.”