Macomb County prosecutors only have to prove that a 29-year-old Warren woman starved her baby to death, not why she did it.
That’s according to Assistant Macomb Prosecutor Molly Zappitell, who told a circuit court jury a 7-week-old A’mir Griffin starved to death in October 2020 because his mother, Shantavia Hayden, 29, failed to feed him, in closing arguments at Shantavia Hayden’s second-degree murder trial.
“Everything was fine with A’mir except he didn’t have food,” Zappitell said. “He starved to death. There is no other cause of death.”
Hayden’s motive is unclear, she conceded.
“It’s something we all struggle with, but it’s not something I have to prove,” Zappitell said.
She said Hayden may not have intentionally tried to kill Amir but created a high risk of death or great bodily harm in which death was a likely result, which is an element of second-degree murder. She speculated perhaps Hayden was angry at A’mir’s father for not being involved with the child, although one of her three other children was also fathered by him, Zappitell said. She noted the three other children were “very well fed.”
Zappitell said Hayden never took Amir for a doctor’s visit and downplayed his condition to paramedics after she called 911 to her residence 10 days before Amir’s death due to Amir choking up baby formula.
Zappitell accused of Hayden of lying to police after Amir’s death that she had fed him 12 hours before and had been feeding him three to four bottles of baby formula per day, although that amount is about half of what a baby needs to survive.
Dr. Leigh Hlavaty, who was the deputy Wayne County medical examiner and performed the autopsy, testified last week that A’mire’s stomach and colon were empty, meaning the child had received no nourishment for at least seven days.
Children’s Hospital emergency-room Dr. Jennifer Noble testified when Hayden brought A’mir to the Detroit hospital at 5:30 a.m. Oct. 11, he had been dead for a few hours as he was showing signs of rigor mortis. She said she still performed life-saving efforts in case her analysis was wrong.
“The bones are very prominent,” Noble said. “The skin is draping around the bones because there is no fat left. The fat has been used.”
Hlavaty said A’mir’s body began to consume his muscles to try to stay alive.
A’mir’s weight declined from his birth weight of over 5 pounds, according to testimony.
During her police interview, Hayden repeatedly said she fed her baby. After the questioning was over and she was alone in the interview room while a video-audio recording still played, she said, “I don’t know what the f— to do. I hurt my baby.”
Hayden also “scammed” to receive more governmental assistance than she was entitled to, such as state unemployment benefits, and federal benefits under Women, Children, Infants (WIC), Zappitell said. She obtained 16 cans of food from WIC during A’mir’s life, seven of them three days before he died. She received $15,000 in jobless benefits in four months. She received food stamps and cash from the state, she said.
“That goes to her character to assess credibility,” Zappitell said.
Zapitell said Hayden may have spent some money on drugs as there is evidence she was a drug user. A’mir was born with drugs in his system but by the time he left the hospital four days later, was drug-free and a normal baby, according to testimony.
Zappitell displayed two photographs of A’mir on a big screen: one from the hospital and one from his autopsy which shows his malnourished condition. A’mir at the hospital was “a chunk little baby. Look what happened to h m seven weeks later,” she said.
During his closing argument, Hayden’s attorney, Andrew Hubbs, told the jury the prosecution’s claim Hayden tried to hide A’mir is “absurd.” He noted Hayden called 911 10 days before A’mir’s death shows she was not trying to hide anything.
“If my client was starving her child, why would she call 911,” he said.
Three days before A’mir’s death, Hayden took him to a doctor’s office to receive a vaccine but left.
“Why take the baby to a crowded waiting room?” he said.
He disputed the prosecution’s claim Hayden lied to receive governmental assistant, noting a state investigator said no fraud was found.
“Absolutely, positively my client was a struggling mother,” he said .”She took advantage of WIC benefits.”
He said Hayden has been “struggling with the loss of her child.”
He asked jurors to find her not guilty because the “prosecution has not proved its case” and “so she can move on with her life and the grieving process.”
Judge James Biernat Jr., who presided over the more than one-week trial, rejected Hubb’s request to allow the jury to consider manslaughter as a potential verdict.
The jury was slated to begin deliberating mid-day Thursday.
Woman accused of starving baby to death in Warren rejects plea