|For Immediate Release
Case # C-64940
December 1, 2010
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
OCDA TO OPPOSE PETITION FOR
RESTORATION OF SANITY BY MOTHER WHO
KILLED 43-DAY-OLD SON IN 1987
*Court overruled the jury’s guilty verdict for murder and found the defendant
not guilty by reason of insanity
SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will oppose a petition for Restoration of Sanity by 46-year-old Sheryl Lynn Massip, who was convicted by a jury in 1988 of murdering her 43-day-old son. The conviction was subsequently set aside by the court, who determined that the defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity. Massip was committed by the court in 1989 to outpatient treatment and supervision and is now petitioning to have her sanity restored and to be released from supervision. She faces a jury trial for restoration to sanity today, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-38, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
After her criminal case was resolved in 1989, Massip remarried and is now Sheryl Lynn Smith. She will be referred to hereafter as Massip, her name at the time of the crime.
Circumstances of the Crime
On the morning of April 29, 1987, Massip went for a walk near her Anaheim home carrying her 43-day-old son, Michael. It was the defendant’s 23rd birthday. While walking in front of a nearby school, Massip threw her baby into the street in front of an oncoming car. The driver of that car was able to swerve to avoid hitting the child, and Massip retrieved the baby from the road and returned to her home.
Once inside their home, Massip took baby Michael into the garage and bludgeoned him with a blunt object. She then drove the still-living victim to a remote residential area in Fullerton and parked her car. Massip took Michael from the car, placed him under the front tire, got back into her vehicle, and killed her baby by driving over his head.
Massip got out of her car and picked up the crushed, dead baby, wrapped him in a blanket, and drove him several blocks before dumping his body in a trash can. Massip then returned home, telling her husband that their baby had been kidnapped at gunpoint by an African-American woman. Massip’s husband called the police, who began an immediate search for the baby and his abductor.
Massip and her husband were transported to the police department and interviewed about the circumstances of the kidnapping. During a moment alone, Massip’s husband confronted her about inconsistencies in the stories she had told to him and the police. Massip then admitted to her husband that she had killed Michael and confessed to police.
Circumstances of the Conviction
Massip was charged with murder for the death of baby Michael. The defense presented evidence during trial that Massip was suffering from “Postpartum Psychosis” and was therefore not guilty by reason of insanity. On Nov. 17, 1988, a jury rejected Massip’s insanity defense and found her guilty of murder.
On Dec. 23, 1988, Massip was set to be sentenced. On that date, the trial judge set aside the jury’s murder verdict and reduced the conviction to voluntary manslaughter. He then ruled that Massip was not guilty of that crime by reason of insanity and sent her for a psychiatric evaluation. On March 3, 1989, the judge committed the defendant to outpatient psychiatric treatment and supervision by the Orange County Conditional Release Program (CONREP). As a result, Massip was never required to serve any time in prison or any time committed as an inpatient in a state-run psychiatric facility.
Treatment and Supervision
On Oct. 1, 1989, Massip was admitted to Orange County CONREP for outpatient psychiatric treatment and supervision. On Oct. 19, 2005, Massip’s case was transferred to the San Bernardino/Riverside CONREP, as her family had relocated to Redlands. She has subsequently relocated to Merced, where her case will be transferred to Merced County CONREP if her petition for Restoration of Sanity is not granted by the jury.
Massip’s Petition for Restoration of Sanity
Massip is now seeking to be released from any further supervision by CONREP. The restoration of sanity for Massip would make all further medical and psychological treatments for the defendant completely voluntary. In order to be restored to sanity under Penal Code 1026.2, the defendant has the burden of proving that it is more likely than not that she no longer poses a danger to the health and safety of others as a result of a mental disease, defect or disorder. The People will argue that Massip still poses such a danger and that her continued supervised treatment is necessary to ensure the safety of the public.
A jury of twelve will hear the evidence in this case and Massip has the burden to prove to at least nine of those jurors that her sanity should be restored. If the jurors determine that she has not carried her burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, Massip will fail in her petition.
Deputy District Attorney Aleta Bryant of the Special Prosecutions Unit is handling this case.