Mother pleads guilty

Patricia Steen

MONCKS CORNER — A mother accused in a 2006 shaken baby case pleaded guilty Thursday to two charges related to her daughter's death.

A homicide by child abuse charge was dropped as Patricia Steen in a plea agreement pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct toward a child and obstruction of justice, 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Anne Williams said.

"What she pled to today was based on a delay in medical care and not giving the truth to the hospital," Williams said. "Markley Dennis, a Berkeley County general sessions judge, gave her 10 years (in jail) suspended upon the service of four years. When she gets out of prison, she'll have four more years probation."

Steen's husband, David Steen Jr., faces the same charges, including homicide by child abuse, and is scheduled for trial on July 13.

Williams said the Steens were the only people who had access to their 7-week-old daughter, Jasmine Lynn Steen, when she was injured Aug. 5, 2006.

Her father rushed her to Trident Medical Center from the family home on Jean Lane in Moncks Corner.

The baby had massive bleeding in her skull but survived with brain damage and was kept alive with a feeding tube.

Patricia Steen was 16 at the time and was charged as an adult. Her her husband was 21.

The state took away the couple's parental rights and put the baby and an older son in foster care. Jasmine Steen died in August 2008.

"The baby's death was due to blunt force trauma to the head," Williams said. "The baby was violently shaken."

Citing the ongoing case for the father, Williams wouldn't say which parent is accused of shaking the baby, but she said both parents were equally charged.

"This was just a heartbreaking case for a helpless victim," Williams said. "Maybe this (the plea) gives Jasmine a voice. Someone has finally taken some responsibility."

Babies have weak neck muscles and large, heavy heads. Shaking can make the fragile brain bounce back and forth in the skull and cause bruising, swelling and bleeding.

The injury can lead to permanent brain damage, blindness, cerebral palsy and death, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The institute's Web site said the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome — including extreme irritability, lethargy, poor feeding, breathing problems, convulsions, vomiting and pale or bluish skin — might not be immediately apparent.

Emergency treatment to stop the internal bleeding is critical.

The syndrome is usually seen in children younger than age 2 but has happened to children as old as 5.