Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
What Happened To Nanny Louise Woodward, Accused Of Killing Matthew Eappen?
Woodward had only been working as an au pair for the Eappen family in Massachusetts when 8-month-old Matthew died, allegedly due to Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Nanny Louise Woodward was just 18 years old when she was thrust into the spotlight following the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.
The British teen was hired by doctors Sunil and Deborah Eappen to watch their sons, Brendan, 2, and Matty in late 1996, living with them in their Newton, Massachusetts home. Woodward was barely three months into the job when she called 911 on Feb. 4, 1997.
"Help, there’s a baby, he’s barely breathing. I think he choked on his vomit," Woodward said in a 911 call played later in court.
Matty was subsequently taken to the Boston Children's Hospital, where he would die from his injuries just five days later, having been taken off life support on February 9, 1997.
Newton police officer Eric Braceland was one of many officers who spoke with Woodward after Matty was taken to the hospital, testifying in the trial that the au pair allegedly told him, "He just wouldn't stop crying," according to footage taken by CourtTV.
What Was Matthew Eappen's Cause of Death?
Early on, doctors suspected that Matty's injuries were caused by child abuse. Pediatric radiologist Dr. Patrick Barnes testified that CAT scans taken during Matty's treatment showed "abnormal findings," including skull fractures and hemorrhages, according to Court TV footage. (While Dr. Barnes testified that child abuse was the most likely cause of Matty's injuries, he's since walked back his statements, indicating the injuries could've been accidental.)
Woodward was arrested and charged with child battery on Feb. 5 of that year, according to the Irish Times. A grand jury later indicted Woodward on one charge of first-degree murder on March 5, 1997.
While Woodward stated that she was never violent with Matty, the prosecutors alleged in court that she had shaken the child in frustration, causing Shaken Baby Syndrome, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as a "preventable, severe form of physical child abuse resulting from violently shaking an infant by the shoulders, arms, or legs."
Experts for the defense confirmed Matty's injuries but argued that they could've taken place at least three weeks prior to Feb. 4. According to the medical experts' testimony, the child had already showed signs of healing by the time he was at the hospital, suggesting that the injuries were sustained prior to Feb. 4. Moreover, there were no injuries to Matty's neck, which would've been a telltale sign of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
What Have The Eappens Said About Louise Woodward?
Among the most damning parts of the trial was the testimony of Dr. Deborah Eappen, who depicted Woodward as lazy and defiant. The mother said the nanny was often out late and not ready to care for the kids in the morning. She said that she and her husband spoke with Woodward about their concerns in November, and again in mid-January.
"We were just in disbelief," Dr. Deborah Eappen testified. "It just seemed like the problems that we thought we had fixed and addressed weren't any better."
Then, on Jan. 28, Dr. Sunil Eappen returned home to find that Woodward had left the children unattended while she was doing laundry in the basement. That week, Dr. Sunil and Deborah Eappen said they gave Woodward an ultimatum: improve her behavior or leave.
"We felt that she was capable and we felt that the kids liked her and that she was motivated to change," Dr. Deborah Eappen said. "So, she made a choice to stay and abide by those guidelines."
Woodward opted to take the stand in her own defense, testifying that she often felt overworked and was confused by the Eappens' expectations. She acknowledged that she made a mistake in leaving the children alone, but noted that she was expected to do chores in addition to watching the children. While this frustrated her, she insisted she never took it out on Brendan or Matty.
On the day Matty was taken to the hospital, Woodward said she had given him a bath before placing him in his crib for a nap. When she woke him up, Woodward found that his eyes were half-closed and he was gasping for breath.
"He looked kind of off-color," she testified. "Kind of blue-ish ... I panicked."
Matty then threw up and she administered CPR, assuming he had choked on his vomit. When he went limp, she laid him on the bed and began yelling his name and clapping to get his attention. She then tried to contact Dr. Sunil Eappen before eventually calling 911.
How Many Years Was Louise Woodward Sentenced To?
Woodward was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to a life sentence in October. When the verdict was read, Woodward cried in court, "I didn't do anything. I didn't hurt Matty. Why did they do that to me?!"
Then, in November 1997, Judge Hiller Zobel reduced Woodward's second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her to time already served. She was freed after nine months in prison on Nov.10, 1997.
"I believe that the circumstances in which Defendant acted were characterized by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice (in the legal sense)," the judge wrote in his ruling, according to the Associated Press. "After extensive, cool, calm reflection, I am morally certain that allowing this defendant on this evidence to remain convicted on second-degree murder would be a miscarriage of justice."
Where Is Louise Woodward Now?
When she returned to the U.K. in June 1998, Woodward said in a statement, "As I've said time and time again I did not hurt Matthew and I did not kill baby Matthew and I just hope that the medical community will take up my case now that all avenues of appeal are closed ... to help prove my innocence."
She went on to receive her law degree from South Bank University in London in 2002, after which she was hired on a two-year contract at a law firm in northwest England. Her employer described her as "bright, motivated," according to the Associated Press.
Woodward later married Antony Elkes in 2013, before welcoming her first child, a baby girl, in January 2014, according to the Birmingham Mail.
Where Are The Eappens Now?
The Eappen family continues to advocate for educating people about Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is often caused by parents, according to the CDC.
"I think it's a lot about anger management, about understanding normal infant development, understanding that babies do cry for several hours a day," Dr. Deborah Eappen said in a 2007 interview with "Good Morning America."
They added that they choose to focus on preserving Matty's memory instead of thinking about Woodward. "To me it's really not about Louise, it's about Matthew," Deborah Eappen said. "Matthew should be with us today, and he should be celebrating the Red Sox and going trick-or-treating and being an 11-year-old boy."