Grandmother guilty in child's death; loses cool in court

Jessica Pierce

Following a dramatic courtroom outburst this morning, a judge ordered a Gorham grandmother to spend the next five to 15 years in state prison for causing the death of infant grandson Ethan Hershey.

Barbara Hershey, 69, screamed out, “Why don’t you either one of you admit you did it, you bastards!”

The angry remark was directed at Ethan’s parents, David and Amanda Hershey of Canandaigua, who were seated in the courtroom audience and who had just spoken on her behalf, pleading with Judge Frederick Reed not to send her to prison.

The outburst came while Reed was speaking, and when it appeared that he was leaning toward sending her to prison. Hershey was convicted on Oct. 3 of second-degree manslaughter for causing Ethan’s death by violently shaking him while caring for him at her South Street home on Oct. 25, 2005.

The conviction was handed down by a jury after a lengthy trial in Ontario County Court. Immediately after the outburst, several of the dozens of people who packed the small courtroom in support of Barbara Hershey started sobbing and David and Amanda Hershey left the courtroom in tears.

The judge called for order and said, “I think that’s exactly what the jury saw.” He told Hershey the evidence against her was overwhelming and said it was one of the most difficult cases he has overseen in his career.

The grandmother faced a maximum of five to 15 years in state prison but the judge had the option of probation and/or community service — or even releasing her without penalty.

After the courtroom session ended, Barbara Hershey’s husband, Daniel, and his wife’s many supporters stood outside the court sobbing and holding one another.

“The family is of course devastated,” said Hershey’s defense attorney, Larry Andolina, adding that “a sentence of this nature is more than just years” for someone of his client’s age.

“This case has been fraught with emotion and tears,” he said.

Andolina had no explanation for the outburst other than that his client was overwhelmed.

 “It rattled me,” he said. “I was taken aback. It never happened to me before.”

Ontario County sheriff’s investigator Brad Falkey, who was in court for the sentencing, said he was not surprised by the outburst.

“It demonstrated to me her susceptibility to outbursts like that,” he said. “I think that’s what happened to Ethan. He was crying all morning and she snapped.”

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