Baby�s mother not guilty

After a three-day trial, an Albemarle County jury has found Raelyn Balfour not guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her nine-month-old son Bryce's death, the result of Balfour forgetting to drop him off at a baby sitter's house and leaving him in the car all day in the parking lot of the Judge Advocate General's School at UVA.

The Hook will post more information on this page as this story develops.

UPDATE: The jury took fewer than 90 minutes to find Balfour not guilty. After her acquittal, Balfour thanked the community for its support, and vowed to spend the rest of her life letting other parents know that the tragic accident that took Bryce's life can happen to anyone. "The important thing now is to make my son's death not in vain," she said.

"It wasn't an intentional thing," said her attorney, Alexandria-based John Zwerling. He believes the jury was swayed by "the lack of evidence of callous disregard." All the elements that the prosecution said were criminal neglect were things she'd done to help other people, he noted.

"We were very pleased the jury made a decision on behalf of the community," says Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Killeen. "This was a case that needed to go before a jury."

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40 comments

She was not punished by the commonwealth because a jury of her peers listened to the evidence in the case and came to a verdict of not guilty. Should be guilty is apparently not a genius or knows anything about the criminal court system. If they did they would know that a person that leaves an animal in a car and CHARGED with animal cruelty is given the same opportunity as this women was. No one is just automatically guilty.....Wise up

Again people run off at the mouth about things they don't know about. The false information was provided by the 16yr olds own family and friends. He struck the game warden with the car. The game warden plead not guilty. The charges were dismissed by the circut court judge due to the fact the stop was legal and the 16yr old didn't have the right to resist the stop according to the judge. Does everyone here get their information from the media or does anyone have any actual first hand knowledge?

Nice work, Quarterback. You recite everything you read in the media at the conclusion of the case. Then you ask us if we get our information from the media. Duh.

If you want to pretend you're running in the inner circle and know so much, tell us about the missing bullet casing. Bet ya can't. :)

Should Be Guilty, OK, I finally agree with you. Just like the game warden who shot and killed the 16 year old kid recently should have walked into the courtroom and accepted responsibility for his actions with a plea of guilty. He didn't have to shoot that kid and kill him. He could simply have moved out of the way and let the kid drive off. The game warden's relying on false information that the kid was possibly suicidal or homicidal is not an excuse. Hell, the girl hadn't even been abducted, like the false information given claimed. The person who offered this false information should have stepped into the courtroom and accepted his/her medicine too. But ya see, we're not all satisfied at the outcome in manslaughter cases all the time. And unlike the Balfours who now have a massive attorney fee to pay, the taxpayers paid for the game warden's defense.

Had Balfour left the child in the car intentionally, like the girl at Hardee's did back in the spring of 1997, she should have stepped up to the plate with a guilty plea.

I guess one just needs to walk in the shoes of that person, you of course would be glad to plead guilty and forget about trying to help others so it doesn't happen to them. You can say whatever you want until it's you and you can say I would never, sure right until something happens and you find out it can happen to the most on top of things person there could possibly be and then omg how did this ever happen to me. It's easy to say whatever until it's YOU. We all need to thank god for our own good fortune. As far as the Jury, the DA didn't show criminal intent, of which there was none. Go talk to all the people this has happen to and there are alot of people, and find out just how these things can happen. It's easy to past judgement on others, but only the good Lord has that right. He was in this and that's why Lyn is not guilty of a criminal act.

Clara-Susan...You are not stating all the facts in the case of the three year old and mother who was sleeping. If you research the facts of the case, which are posted on the internet, the mother knew her three year old had attempted to harm the infant and had violent tendencies towards the younger sibling on several occasions prior to this incident. The three year old had attempted to drowned the infant in the past. The mother had went out drinking the night before and didn't return home until late morning and that is why she was sleeping...for several hours CHOOSINg to leave her children unattended. These facts are not based off of newspaper articles but the transcript of the court case. Bottomline: Unless you were in the courtroom for the entire trial you cannot speak on the issues that came out on this or any other case or even try to relate them.

To Sick of the Local Rambos: in reply to your comment of that "he should have just stepped out of the way", he was purposely driven at and hit.

I worked at a location where I was privy to information and also knew her neighbors. Unfortunately, the Judge did not allow evidence that was key to her defense and that's why what you read is what was allowed and not inclusive of all the facts. Her "night out" was not normal behavior - she went out that one time and yes, enjoyed herself and drank a bit. However, the 3yr old child demonstrated sibling rivalry all the time. Does that mean she should not have slept at night either? You are right, the case is not similar, but I used it to contrast the judgements passed upon mothers when it appears they neglect their children. In my mind, seven years was excessive for that grieving mom.

Mother of Three: No amount of education, classes, books or professional training prepares you for the responsibility of parenthood. Parenting should be the top priority from the very beginning. Sure you can go to classes, read books, take part in parenting classes all you want, but nothing will ever replace common sense when it comes to the safety of your children. We can agree or disagree from now on, but the fact is that this mother is responsible for her childs death and she will have to live with that guilt for the rest of her life. Perhaps this will raise the awareness of others that it is the parents responsibility to provide a safe enviornment for their children, whether it be in their care or that of a sitter. According to the growing number of this same type of incident in the news, we as parents leave a lot to be desired.

She should have been a bodyguard for her child.

There's no excuse for leaving your child in a car.

The child was in the car for at least a 45 minute drive, did she not once think about her child then ?
If her husband was at home because of only having 1 car, then why didn't he keep the child ?

She's lying, she killed the child and should have been punished.

I'm not the member of any inner circle. I'm just a citizen who is educated. Thank you to all the teachers and college professors who believed in me.

I swear I'm going to change my name to Sick of people who just scraped by in the public education system. If you were in court or checked the court records which become public once the case is concluded then you would know that there wasn't a missing bullet casing. There were two shots, two bullet casings recovered, two holes in the windshield. The rounds the game warden was issued were fragmentation rounds. That means they break or splinter on impact. The medical examiner and investigator concluded that one of the rounds fractured after striking the windshield making a wound that was originally thought to be third bullet wound. Next time you spout off about something please try to make it an educated opinion. The information is out there you just have to know how find it. Next time I do your research for you I'm afraid I'll have to charge you for my service.

OK. :)

The DP story said that Conely initiated contact with the prosecution -- that came out under cross examination. Hardly sounds like she had no choice in the matter.

Should Be Guilty, if you don't like the criminal justice system's decision in this case, perhaps you should move to Iran. You'll love their system of justice. :)

A DUI Driver is prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter when he kills another innocent driver due to his negligence. A daycare center would be civilly liable if they left a child out on the playground and something happened. And as "Should Be Guilty" stated, a dog owner would be charged with animal cruelty if their animal died in a vehicle. Even if these are accidents, the community generally requires that the person responsible be held accountable.

So how should Ms. Balfour be held accountable for her failure to care for her child? State law leaves few options besides manslaughter and child neglect. None of the code sections really apply to true accidents. So what happens if a parent leaves a child unattended in a bath tub? Or what if the babysitter falls asleep watching tv and the child gets into some household cleaners?

Prison may not be the best alternative. Community service? Fines? Parenting class? I understand the mother feels sorrow, but that does not do proper justice for Bryce. The Commonwealth Attorney and the University Police had a responsibility to the community to find justice for Bryce, and they did so within the best options available. Think of it from this perspective -- if it was your babysitter or relative that left YOUR child in the car, would you want them held accountable? Would you want the police to investigate then choose to do nothing?

Well done to the Commonwealth Attorney and the University Police for an extensive, professional investigation. I hope this verdict will provide Ms. Balfour with some closure and allow the community to reflect on proactive ways to prevent this from happening again.

I am far from being a liberal and usually take the lock them up and throw away the key attitude, but from what I have read in the media this was this a complete accident. She will have to live and emotionally suffer from her mistake for the rest of her life¢Ã¢â??¬Šwhich will far exceed any punishment the criminal justice system could impose. Kudos to the jury for making their decision and I can only hope that her and her family can recover from this tragic accident and move forward with their lives.

OMG - Go to http://forgetmenotusa.com/angels_2007.html and you will find Bryce's name along with the other children who lost their lives in 2007 due to hyperthermia. The children's names will remain on this website to honor and remember them always.

If you leave your dog in a hot car, however much you love it and however much you care for it, you are guilty of animal cruelty. People are brought up on animal cruelty charges and convicted of this. Why is she not being punished for a similar crime against a child?

Clarification: Ms. Balfour stated that she wasn't allowed to talk or discuss her case while it was pending. This means she cannot provide facts for any organtization while the trial is pending. That advise was directed from her attorneys. This is common practice when one is accused of a crime. Now that the matter is over I am sure the family can now get out the story of his death and educate.

Geez, you're quick to charge trickery. I read that Balfour said she was working with the organization--does that have to mean that hers son's name and story HAVE to appear on their site? Couldn't Balfour be working with them but have decided not to put his name story on the site? Sounds like someone is a little ghoulishly obsessed with reading the details of what happened.

It just sounds like you're out to find fault with her still. Where's the trickery? The jury found her not guilty based on the evidence presented at trial, not on the assumption that she was working for an organization.

OMG, It's Kids and Cars.org, Jenette E. Fennell is the person that Lyn Balfour has been in contact with. First of all this has been something she has been working on little by little looking to see what is the best way to educate others. No trickery it is going to be an on going thing for the rest of her life. She hasn't been able to grieve for the lose of Bryce and now she can do that and try to help others as well. What happened IS a Tragic
Accident. Anyone that thinks things won't happen to them are kidding themselves. It is important to be thankful for your good fortune. Thank you to all who have the supported the Balfours.

It seems that being a absentmindedparent is becoming an every day occurance. These incidents are happening again and again and unless our court system begins to punish these "parents", there are going to be more innocent children made to suffer a long and cruel demise. Perhaps this will be a reminder to other parents to always put your children's welfare number one priority no matter what else is going on in your life either at home or work.

I would be interested to know how many who oppose abortion are ok with this verdict? After all, if you can't take a life before it is a life,¢Ã¢â??¬Š.

She should have pled guilty and the judge could have suspended her sentence. you can't receive forgiveness for your sins until you acknowledge they exist.

Several years ago, in York County, Judge Smiley sent a woman to prison for 7 years because her infant died while she was asleep. (The full story: her 3 yr old killed the infant while she was asleep.) The Judge (no jury) sent her to prison for child neglect - he said she should not have been sleeping in the afternoon. Supposedly, all 3 of them were supposed to be napping, but the 3yr old awoke. Many people testified that she was a wonderful mother, but the Judge could not be swayed.

Tough case ¢Ã¢â??¬Š tough lesson. If she were black and poor and living anywhere but Charlottesville, she'd be in jail.

Largesse -- you are clever, but I changed my name on the Hook Blog during the Beebe case because of the hateful e-mail I was receiving at my website. I only referenced religion in this discussion because of Person of faith's comments. I prefer not to mix the two.

I think our dialogue is no longer about this woman but about this type of crime and how it should be handled. People are apparently unable to categorize her action as a felony crime because of the grief that she carries within her.

If this were the 2nd time she had left the child in the car, would reaction be different?

Clara, why are you posting over on cvillenews under the name of Susan? just curious...

Since when does one have to plead guilty to a crime to acknowledge having sinned? Is the judge God in your worldview? Are you confusing your religion with our legal system? Is it not possible to acknowledge that you have failed or wronged someone (which Balfour has done over and over and over, to herself, to her God, to her husband, etc.) but also argue that under the laws of the land you are not guilty of criminal negligence or involuntary manslaughter?

Over and over I hear this very simplistic line of thinking in reaction to this case: "she didn't plead guilty, therefore she must believe she didn't do anything wrong." "If we don't lock her up, millions of parents will feel free to leave their babies in hot cars all day." "If she doesn't go to jail, she's not being punished for her crime." Honestly, it's discouraging to see so many people apparently incapable of logical thinking or of grasping any kind of complexity.

Interesting thought, Clara. I imagine if Balfour was poor and black she would easily have been convicted. Even in Charlottesville. Why you may ask? Because she could not have afforded an excellent attorney such as Zwerling.

wow! well said concerned, i wondered when someone would put it all out there! Best Luck to Lyn and her family. they deserve some time to grieve and live again!

it's over people, who cares about what has happened in other cases or other crimes. she and her family now have the opportunity to grieve for the loss of Bryce and move on with their lives with him in memory. let it go! clara-susan, whatever your name is, give it a rest, do you have kids? if so put yourself in her shoes and then see what you think. everyone says it can't happen to them. no one has control over fate!

Ann, we're off topic just a tad.... my fault.... but I don't believe a thing unless I see it firsthand on video. Read this:

"Jan 25, 2008 BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA - Bedminster Township has claimed another victory in its costly four-year legal battle with fired Police Chief Robert Glosson. A Bucks County judge's decision upholding Glosson's firing for allegedly falsifying weapons-qualification and other misconduct was affirmed in a 2-to-1 decision last week in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, court records show."

If I told you a very similar thing took place in a local police department recently, would you believe me? Or would you believe the police if they were to smile on camera and attempt to deny it?

Clara,believe me she will never be over it. When you lose a child no matter the circumstance you NEVER get over it. You just have to learn to live with it. What punishment do you think would bring Bryce back?? She will punish herself forever for the lose of Bryce. She has accepted responsiblity for what happened.
She will never stop educating nor telling the story of what happened. I suppose going to jail would have made things better, how?? I can tell you that if you haven't lost a child you have no idea what you are talking about. Community outlook is right she wasn't allowed to discuss what happened until the case was finished. Now please let her grieve for her son and start to help others avoid ever being in this situation.

The jury has spoken, a jury of her peers, so get over it and move on. And the jury made the right decision bases on the info posed in the media im my opinion.

Person of Faith: "She has accepted responsiblity for what happened."

In my opinion, if she had wanted to accept responsibility for her actions she would have plead guilty and paid her debt to society and to Bryce. As "No Justice" pointed out, the job of the state is to protect the innocent, even if the ones who hurt them are really really sorry.

Although I feel very sorry for the mother, she did an awful thing and should have been punished for killing an innocent child. The jury allowed emotion to hamper their decisions. Of course she would say she would never get over this -- but she did kill her child due to her neglect. No job is worth the death of a child.

What a sad state of affairs when those who are subpeoned to court and have no choice in the matter are the ones who wind up being ridiculed and slandered. I have always believed that you reap what you sow and those responsible for the verbal attacks will do just that in one way or another. The witnesses have committed no crime and are only performing their civil duties as outlined by our laws. No wonder so many crimes go unpunished and no one wants to testify because they just don't want to get involved.

Before we celebrate (which I wanted to do) on the day the trial ended ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??Zwerling says Balfour is working as a volunteer with an organization called Kids In Cars, which alerts parents to the dangers of leaving children in vehicles.¢Ã¢â??¬ This was also mentioned several times in other media and by the defendant herself. Being a mother of two young boys myself (18 mos and 4) and having followed this tragedy, I found this very interesting, until I looked for the group. It turns out that I found something very troubling. Kids in Cars changed its name some time ago, to Harrisons Hope, and as of today they have no record on their site of the baby, Bryce, or what happened to him. Looking back in the news he has been dead for almost a year? Assuming this was a mistake of some kind, I tried KidsandCars.org, a similar group. This troubled me even more, nothing. After searching the internet, despite the family statements, I found that Bryce is not mentioned on any site dealing specifically with what happened to him except the news. I am sure the family will jump on it now, but its too late. The lawyers didn't do their home work, they made the whole thing up and didn't even realize the group changed its name before they spoke. She tricked us all, and I have a stomach ache.

Conerned Mother....Punishment of an individual by the judicial system is suppose to deter a criminal act, but in this case as a medical professional I can tell you that the manner in which your brain functions cannot be related in any way to the "welfare" of your child. Unfortunately the medical experts have proven this, but safety measures in our busy lives have not caught up. Safety measures in your home that have been created...safety door latches, child gates, electrical safety plugs were all developed because of a tragic accident and in most of those cases the parents are not deemed negligent. When a child is accidentally backed over, even though the parents are suppose to know where that child is are in 90% of the cases not charged. We have a safety device now available for attachment to vehicles to prevent that from happening, but no concrete device has been developed for this type of prevention. Education is the key...not punishment. My prayers go out to this family.

No justice for the child....you obviously haven't read any of the evidence in the case or else you wouldn't have been so uninformed. The father carpooled with the mother and the baby fell asleep and a spare car seat was in the vehicle. Accidents happen.

Raelyn Balfour,
Hopefully you don't read this stuff, with all the self appointed judges eager to jump on you, but if you do I just want to say I am so sorry for everything you and your family has been through. I am so glad the trial is over and the jury returned the verdict it did. From what I read, not one of the jurors voted to find you guilty. Not one, and they obviously know much much more than the people who were not there and yet are so quick to find blame. My worst nightmare is losing a child, and you have been through that and more. I am so sorry, and I hope that now you will have some time to grieve your loss. I wish you the best in welcoming your new baby into your family. I am sure you are a great mom.

What a waste of taxpayer money! This is what makes me so mad about the local criminal justice system, all the commonwealth accomplished was running up a $50,000+ attorney bill for the Balfours.