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Shane murder trial continues

WORTHINGTON -- During the testimony of Dan Wagner, supervisor of the sleep diagnostic center in Sioux Falls, S.D., Assistant Attorney General William Klumpp and Chief Public Defender James Fleming had a brief debate about data Wagner was interpreting.

Klumpp accused Fleming of trying to mislead the jury with raw data from an apnea monitor that differed slightly from the scored data he was using. But Klumpp's objection was overruled by Judge David Christensen.

Thursday was the second day of testimony for the Minnesota versus Shane jury trial, in which Lisa Shane, 20, of Adrian is being tried on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of child neglect in the death of her three-month-old daughter.

Ashanta Chavarria died Nov. 5, 2004, after being admitted after 11 p.m. Oct. 28 to the Worthington Regional Hospital by her mother. The autopsy reported the manner of death as homicide and the cause of death as closed head trauma due to child abuse.

Born prematurely July 23, 2004, Ashanta did not leave the hospital until Oct. 1. She was sent home on an apnea monitor, used to measure the heartbeat and breath rate of the infant.

Testimony from Wagner, along with data from the machine, showed the audible alarm on the machine would have sounded a minimum of 84 times on Oct. 28, indicating the child's heartbeat had dropped below 80 per minute or she had gone more than 15 seconds without taking a breath.

According to the patient event log, the alarms started sounding around 11:24 a.m. and went off nine times before noon that day. There were a few events that afternoon, and by the early evening hours the log showed multiple events until the time the child was brought to the hospital and the monitor removed.

Wagner said the decibel level of the alarm is 105. Medical Equipment Clinician Michelle Iolt had demonstrated the apnea machine alarm for the judge and jury earlier in the day -- the noise was loud and shrill.

Iolt was responsible for training Shane on the use of the machine, and produced documents with Shane's signature showing she had attended the training.

Information from the apnea machine was downloaded and analyzed on a regular basis as its memory filled up. The information was reviewed by Wagner and by Dr. Henant Sawnani, who testified the data from the Oct. 1 through Oct. 14 download showed Ashanta to be fairly normal.

"She was just another premature baby that seemed to be doing fine," he said.

The data from Oct. 28 showed "numerous long apnea events" with breath rates as low as three a minute, Sawnani said. The low breath rates would have caused agonal breathing, which Sawnani described as "rather peculiar looking, like a fish outside of water."

The normal heartbeat of a premature child that age should have been 130 to 180 beats per minute, with a breath rate of 40 to 60 per minute.

"An active, healthy baby doesn't breathe so rarely per minute," Sawnani said. "A baby breathing three times per minute is not likely to be pink. The child was very sick."

"Would that sickness she was experiencing be something a parent familiar with the child would notice?" Klumpp asked.

"It should," Sawnani replied.

Fleming asked Sawnani if the symptoms would be easy to spot. Sawnani said that if the child was heavily clothed, it may not be as easy.

"But the color of the baby would give it away," he added.

Iolt had testified earlier that when a parent is taught how to use the apnea monitor, they are told if the alarm sounds to go to the baby and assess the child for color.

She also testified that records are kept of all calls to their information line for anyone having problems with the machines, and there was no record of Lisa Shane calling the line.

Testimony will continue today. The trial is scheduled to take up to three weeks.