February 18, 1998 in Idaho

Teen Who Shook Baby Faces First-Degree Murder Trial 18-Year-Old Told Mother That Boy Wouldn’t Stop Crying

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Blake Kitchen wouldn’t stop crying, and that frustrated John Franzatti.

The 18-year-old’s response was to grab the 4-month-old infant by the face and shake him, a police detective and the baby’s mother said Tuesday.

Injuries the infant suffered while being shaken probably led to his death, a judge decided.

Magistrate Barry Watson ordered Franzatti to stand trial for first-degree murder. He set Franzatti’s bail at $50,000.

Blake died Jan. 5 at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. The infant had been on life support in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit for two days after being transferred there from Kootenai Medical Center.

Doctors said the boy had internal head injuries consistent with “shaken infant syndrome.”

Defense attorneys argued evidence presented by prosecutors did not support the first-degree murder charge because there was no intent. Testimony showed probable cause only for involuntary manslaughter.

“He in no way intended to harm this child,” defense attorney Tim Gresback said.

Prosecutors do not have to prove Franzatti intended to kill the child to win a first-degree murder conviction, said Deputy Prosecutor Traci Post. Idaho law says that aggravated battery committed on a child younger than 12 that results in death is considered first-degree murder.

Police and Franzatti’s girlfriend, Lisa Kitchen, both said the Post Falls teenager admitted shaking the infant.

Franzatti told Post Falls police Lt. Dick Halligan that Blake’s crying woke him up about 6:15 a.m. on Jan. 3, the detective said. He put the infant on a padded table to change his diaper, but the crying continued.

Frustrated, Franzatti reached out with his right hand, grabbed Blake across the mouth and shook him “pretty hard,” Halligan said.

The boy eventually went back to sleep and woke up three hours later. While Franzatti fed Blake baby formula from a bottle he coughed, startling the infant.

Moments later, Blake stopped breathing, Halligan said. A frantic Franzatti called Lisa Kitchen at work.

“John had told me that Blake choked on his milk and to get home right away,” she said.

On the way to the hospital, Lisa Kitchen asked Franzatti, who was not the infant’s father, what had happened.

“We were both crying,” Lisa Kitchen said. “All he kept saying was, ‘I’m sorry.”’

Dr. Gary Lee, a Sacred Heart physician who specializes in caring for critically injured children, said he told Lisa Kitchen he doubted Franzatti’s account. She confronted him again.

“I asked him if he could tell me what really happened,” Lisa Kitchen said. “John told me he shook Blake. I asked him how hard and his response was, ‘Well, look what it did to him.”’

The day after Blake’s death, the two agreed to meet at a Pinehurst gas station to talk. While the two sat in Franzatti’s car in front of the Super Stop, he told Kitchen that he grabbed her son by the chin and shook him, she said.

“John had told me that the morning that this happened, Blake woke up and he just wouldn’t stop crying,” Lisa Kitchen said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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