Hearing fills courtroom… with sobs

The 911 tape was wrenching: "No, no, please. Oh no, please. Oh help me." As it played in Charlottesville Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Friday, the woman on the tape, Raelyn Balfour, began sobbing in the courtroom, as did her husband and family members.

Acknowledging the tragedy of the death of her nine-month old son, Bryce, Judge Edward DeJ. Berry certified two felony charges against Balfour to the grand jury for the March 30 death of the baby, whom she left all day in the car in the parking lot of the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School where she works. Balfour, who told an investigator she "simply forgot" to drop the baby off at the sitter, is charged with second-degree murder and felony child neglect.

Her husband, Jarrett Balfour, a contractor at the National Ground Intelligence Center who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq later this month, detailed events leading up to the baby's death. His wife loved Bryce "very much and she always put him first," he said.

"Lyn doesn't sleep well," said Balfour. She did not get to sleep until 1am March 30, and was up again at 3:30am for at least 30 minutes when Bryce woke up and couldn't find his pacifier, said Jarrett Balfour.

For most of Bryce's young life, his father had driven him to the babysitter, who lived north of their Greene County residence. The sitter recently had moved to Forest Lakes South and the parents split "50-50" delivering him in the morning, depending on their work schedules.

Because of an auto accident, the couple had carpooled that week. Raelyn Balfour dropped her husband off, and he didn't hear from her again until 4pm, when he received a distraught phone call. Asked to describe her crying, Balfour said "Between one and 10, she was probably a 25."

He said his wife's stress level was not unusual. "I don't think Bryce created any additional stress on either of us," he said. "It was just tiring."

UVA police Detective David Roach interviewed Raelyn Balfour after the lifesaving efforts on the infant ended at UVA Medical Center. She waived her Miranda rights and said the day was "typical," Roach testified. "She had a very busy day with graduation coming up."

Balfour had returned a phone call from the sitter around 3pm and left a message, said Roach. It wasn't until she spoke to the sitter around 4pm that she learned she had not dropped the child off.

Bryce died of hyperthermia and his body temperature registered at 110 degrees in the emergency room, testified a medical examiner, who compared being left in the car for seven hours to the ordinary experience of baking. The examiner said he found no evidence of abuse or drugs during the autopsy.

The high temperature March 30 was 66 degrees, but even at 5pm, when UVA police evidence technician William Sowers measured the interior temperature of Balfour's navy SUV, the temperature rose from 82.5 degrees to 98 degrees in 40 minutes.

Balfour's attorney, John Zwerling, who represented UVA stabber Andrew Alston in 2004, argued that his client's forgetfulness was not a "willful act" and the accidental death "was not a gross or wanton disregard for human life."

"It was the manner of her care that is willful neglect," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Killeen. She pointed out that Raelyn Balfour had an uninterrupted 29-minute cell phone conversation that morning driving into work, and if she'd had a wreck because she was distracted, that would have constituted willful neglect. "This is criminal conduct– an accidental death in felony circumstances. She had a duty of care. It is gross and willful."

Balfour will remain out on $25,000 bond and the judge lifted a restriction that she not be around children without supervision. She has a 14-year-old son, and with her husband leaving for Iraq, it would pose an undue burden to care for the son, said her attorney Dana Slater.

The judge also will allow Balfour to leave the state for military drill and to take her 14-year-old son to accompany her husband when he leaves for Ft. Benning in Georgia June 16 before heading to Iraq. The Father's Day weekend will be difficult for the family and June 18 would have been Bryce's first birthday. "It'll be good for the family to be together," said Slater.
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11 comments

"Gross and willful"???? For what--for a phone call? For what was clearly a terrible accident? Where is the prosecutorial discretion? No evidence of abuse or prior neglect. She's already been punished. Whatever happened to the concept of "hasn't she suffered enough already?"

My heart breaks for this family.

The prosecutor might asked himself this question. Have you ever driven from point A to point B and not remebered how you got there? You don't remember the red light at Main Street or tunring left at the high school. You thank God you arrived safely. In this fast paced life it has happened to all of us.

There is no punishment they can hand out to her that will be worse than how she will punish herself for the rest of her life. I pray the Judge has a compasionate heart.

I totally agree with posters #1 and #2 here. This is a tragedy almost beyond comprehension and just reading about it brings tears to my eyes. I feel so terribly sorry for the mother (especially) and the father. I don't know how she will get through it. Hopefully, many are gathering around and giving her as much love as possible. I hope the father will find a way to stay with her, rather than head to Iraq for what?

Since when did the prosecution begin speculating on events that never occured. So are we to expect that all indivduals who are "distracted" and cause accidents are going to be prosecuted? I know of several people that for one reason or the other have been in car accidents and have inadvertantly killed one of their family members in the car but have not been prosecuted. And when did using an unrelated example become the basis of whether the charges are valid or not. When this goes to trial and the prosecution loses because they based it on a phone call that wasn't illegal, and all of our tax dollars were wasted on this case instead of a real criminal, I hope the light on his career burns out.

I am so happy to see that the general public has decided to view this case with empathy and sympathy and understanding that we ALL make mistakes and this truly could have been any parent who is stretched in many directions ---mostly in an attempt to provide the very best we possibly can for our children. Hopefully none of us will ever have to experience the horrible, awful pain this family is suffering as a result of this accident and the loss of their precious baby boy......but if we do, we would certainly need all the love, care, support and understanding those around us can offer. I only hope and pray that the Grand Jury will understand that there is truly no punishment the judicial system can inflict that can in any way match what this family is already suffering. They will only be able to truly start to heal when the legal process ends. I hope the Grand Jury will drop the charges against this mother and let her and her family start to try to rebuild her life the best she can

This has to be one of the saddest and most tragic things that I've heard. My heart breaks for the Balfours. Our community should be doing everything it can to comfort and console this family rather than to spend any time at all with recriminations. This, or something equally tragic, could happen to any of us. Fortunately, most of our accidents and lapses are relatively harmless - but we're all only a tiny slip away from making a terrifible mistake. This was so clearly a painful accident. How can we even consider punishment? How could any consequence be worse?

No they are not, it was on uva grounds which is actually considered county property. Which falls under their juridictional authority.

This prosecution is directly related to an election year, he just wants to look tough and get the conservative vote. Just look at his record. He pleads a very high percentage of cases which leads to high conviction rates. It's time for a change from politics to justice for families and the victims.

I don't like Camblos either, but I don't think he's to blame for this one -- isn't the city prosecuting Mrs. Balfour?

I have a child, and I have never forgotten her in the car while I go to work. This is neglect, and she should have to face the music. I give kudos to the prosecutor, good job.

Life in prison, the life her child won't get to have now.

And I served with SSG. Balfour in Iraq. She wasen't too smart then either.

SFC Balfour has served her country honorably for more than 15 years, and I too served with her in Iraq. SFC Balfour has always put the needs of her children and others before herself. She always had unwavering integrity and courage and she ALWAYS took personal care of her soldiers and was the only female and junior NCO to receive a Bronze Star in our unit while serving in Iraq. I don't know who the person is referring too above but that person didn't serve with SFC Balfour in Iraq