Alan and Francine Yurko's baby boy, Alan, was born on September 16, 1997. Francine's pregnancy was severely compromised with refractory and recurrent E. coli infection, gestational diabetes, group b Streptococcal infection, and an overall weight gain of only two pounds. Labor was induced at 35 weeks because of life-threatening oligohydramnios (loss of amniotic fluid). Baby Alan was born grayish blue with respiratory distress and hypoglycemia. He spent the first week of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Nurseries, where his parents spent their days with him until his release. A breathing monitor was sought because Baby Alan was rasping and grunting; however, insurance would not cover it, and the doctors assured that it wasn't necessary.
Over the next six weeks, the family went to weekly pediatrician visits. Baby Alan was seriously jaundiced during his entire neonatal period, and was still rasping and grunting with short periods of apnea. In addition, on November 2, 1997, Alan and Francine rushed the baby to the hospital late in the night because they noticed blood on a burp rag. He was examined by several doctors and nurses, and it was decided that he must have scratched the inside of his nose with his fingernails. Francine pointed out that his fingernails were very trimmed and that, as a preemie, her baby didn't have such muscle control to have scratched himself. However, the doctors disregarded the concerns, and remarks were made about being "overprotective parents."
On November 11, 1997, at his weekly pediatrician visit, baby Alan was still not well: He was congested, rasping and grunting, and he had abnormal bowel movements. Despite this and other concerns, such as prematurity, he was injected with six vaccines. Within 24 hours he became lethargic, feverish, fussy. His feeding and sleeping patterns were markedly reduced and changed. The doctor warned that he could be this way for a week or so, but not to worry because it’s “normal” for some babies after their vaccinations. This desensitized the parents to those reactions.
Over the next ten days, baby Alan's condition did not improve, and he then developed a high-pitched cry. Francine and Alan became concerned, but the doctor said this was normal, and they'd already been chastised for being “overprotective.” On November 23, 1997, they decided that if baby Alan did not improve, they would take him to the pediatrician the next day after Francine returned from work. They never got the chance.
On November 24, 1997, in the late morning hours, Francine Yurko kissed her family good-bye and went to work, leaving Alan, the baby, and their four-year-old daughter at home. Alan was a loving and patient dad. He loved to give baths, changed most diapers, and had a special knack for “baby talk.” That morning, after feeding baby Alan, it was time to change the diaper. Alan and the baby's sister began the routine. Alan and Francine always involved their daughter in the care of her brother to minimize any sibling rivalry and establish a bond. Unfortunately, that diaper didn't get changed.
Baby Alan spit up and stopped breathing. Alan attempted mouth-to-mouth and tried to clear any blockage potentially causing his son to stop breathing. He rushed him to the hospital ER at Princeton Hospital in Orlando, where, after great struggle and mishaps, his son was resuscitated. Francine arrived, and they tearfully embraced one another as they waited to be informed on their son's condition.
Baby Alan was then transported to Florida Hospital, which was better equipped to handle the situation and where a ventilator was helping him to breathe. After 12 hours of waiting, the doctor told Alan and Francine that their baby had brain bleeding and rib calluses, which were probably from old fractures. The shock was too much for Francine, and she was sedated. Alan disbelieved the doctor's diagnosis, and asked him to double check to see if he had the right baby. After all, baby Alan had spent a lot of time with many doctors and nurses in his short life, and how could they not have noticed broken ribs?
At approximately 2 a.m. on November 25, 1997, detectives Hinkey and Carson of Orlando Homicide asked to question Alan. The police suggested all sorts of explanations when inquiring about what caused the baby's condition, to which Alan listened and responded, but never gave an explanation. Alan and Francine had no clue to as to what caused their son's condition. Alan maintained that he had no idea how his son's injuries happened. Over and over, he stated that neither he nor anyone had ever shaken or dropped the baby. He was in a state of shock and disbelief as to what was happening.
Alan was arrested less than 48 hours later after police mistook him for a fugitive named Michael Yurkiew. Federal agents eventually established that it was a mistake. However, this false arrest created an initial bias against Alan that contributed to the upcoming denial of justice.
Placed in a maximum security area and denied bail while other inmates taunted him as a "baby killer" and assaulted him with feces, urine, sour milk and spit, Alan was no threat to anyone. Yet, child protection Detectives warned Francine that if she did not "cooperate with them" they would call the juvenile judge and "make sure she never saw her daughter again." They tried to scare her also by saying she could be charged with "accessory after the fact" and could get 20 years in prison. Francine adamantly refused to succumb to this coercion. She was then charged as promised, and her daughter was placed in "extended custody." Her case was thrown out of court due to the false arrest, but not before the daughter was sexually battered and molested in state "protective" custody. Her daughter was returned to her immediately afterwards.
Alan was charged with aggravated child abuse and first degree (felony) murder. He refused several plea bargains,
including one that probably would have made him a free man by now. His trial lasted 3 days in February 1999.
The prosecution relied on the testimony of five local doctors who stated that baby Alan was killed by shaken baby syndrome (SBS). Yet, those doctors could not agree on when baby Alan's brain injuries happened, nor could they even agree on what specific injuries were observed in his brain, or in the eye for that matter. Disagreement also existed in the interpretation of X rays showing rib malformations. Interestingly, each State expert made the "window" of injury large enough to include numerous suspects, yet Alan was arbitrarily chosen as the target. No State expert attempted to perform any differential diagnoses. Furthermore, none of the State's experts even looked at baby Alan's medical history before rendering an opinion of abuse. Not only that, the prenatal and birth records, which bear heavily on the case, were not introduced into evidence by the prosecution (or Alan's lawyers).
Alan had public defenders who procured only one expert to investigate and testify. Douglas Shanklin, MD holds dual professorships at a state medical college, and is considered by the courts and his peers to be one of the top pathologists in the country. Dr. Shanklin testified that whatever caused baby Alan's bleeding used as proof of SBS must have happened in the hospital - since it occurred less than 24 hours before he died and he spent the last 75 hours of his life in Florida Hospital.
In spite of the numerous inconsistencies in the prosecution's case, the jury accepted the prosecution's theory that Alan must be guilty because he was the last adult alone with his son before he came under the care of paramedics and hospital personnel. Alan was convicted and given life in prison without parole, plus ten years. Direct appeal was denied because Alan's lawyers did not note or make claim to numerous errors in court proceedings, so they were not entered in the court transcripts.
Francine and Alan vowed to gain justice. They began educating themselves in the law, forensics, pathology, criminal care medicine, neonatology and many other fields. They began writing to experts and authors in the relevant fields. After about 1,000 letters written by Alan from prison, interest in the case began to build. Francine worked grueling hours and swing shifts, burning her candle at both ends and in the middle to fund their quest for justice. Their persistence has paid off.
Since 1999, and over 75,000 e-mails and 50,000 letters later, Francine and Alan have over 300 doctors, scientists, experts and medical professionals who stand behind Alan's innocence and upcoming appeal. Over 115 organizations on four continents openly support what has become known as The Yurko Project. Thousands of parents and families have come to their aid, and the case has gained national and international attention. Over 200 articles have appeared in various publications, which include five peer reviewed medical journals.
Francine has been a guest on nearly 20 radio interview programs as well as several TV news shows. There is also interest from various film producers. Fund raising seminars have been held in New York and Great Britain. Francine has spoken at numerous medical conferences, and is the International Chiropractors Association's (ICA) "Hero Of The Year" for three years running. Both Alan and Francine, as well as their network of contacts, have helped over 70 families build defenses and strategies to prevent injustice. They have many success stories. Yet, parents and caretakers continue to be unjustly accused and convicted.
Due to unrelenting research and study as well as tutelage by an army of experts including over a dozen medical professors, and due to Francine's efforts to obtain "missing" records, the puzzle of vindicating evidence for Alan has been assembled. For example, it was discovered that baby Alan was given a bad vaccine. All six vaccines given to baby Alan are "hot-lots" on the government's database for tracking such lots (vaers.org), but one lot in particular, DTaP 7H81507, is associated with 70 adverse reactions, 25 of which were life threatening and 12 of which resulted in hospitalizations. Five other babies died in association with this vaccine. Moreover, the average reaction-onset interval is 11.45 days--the same as baby Alan's.
Vaccines were only one part of the puzzle, however. Shockingly, hospital records show that baby Alan was given an absolutely contraindicated anticoagulant called heparin, which promotes and causes bleeding in the brain. Even more shocking, the heparin was given at nearly 9 times the recommended dose. Baby Alan was overdosed continuously at this rate for the last 70 hours of his life by attending physician, Dr. Ben Guedes (who also overdosed him on sodium bicarbonate). This suggests that Dr. Guedes had an ulterior agenda: Baby Alan was an organ donor, and heparin is also the drug of choice for preserving visceral organs for harvesting.
Guedes began the heparin line 48 hours before brain death was established. He had ordered a CT scan at Princeton Hospital, but it wasn't run until 10 hours after admission at Florida Hospital. The scan revealed that the brain bleeding did not occur until 5 hours after the initial dose of heparin. Guedes knew this. He continued the heparin. He never tried to save baby Alan's life, only his organs.
To compound matters, evidence suggests that the Medical Examiner, Shashi Gore, MD, confused Alan's autopsy with another. Gore's autopsy report presented absurd and conflicting data to include more than 25 discrepancies. Some of those autopsy discrepancies are as followed:
Baby Alan's age was noted to be 2 months old whereas he was 10 weeks.
Baby Alan in September, 1997
Baby Alan in September, 1997… Cranial measurement was noted to be 22cm whereas at birth his head circumference was 31.5 and later hospital records note 37.5cm.
Gore testified that "he" removed the heart and other organs, which he did not. A transplant team did that before autopsy.
Gore described in great detail a tissue specimen of inner heart muscle (myocardium) in his report. Yet, the heart and valves were successfully transplanted, and tissue samples (especially of the myocardium) were never taken.
Gore testified that he observed Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) in the decedent; however, the autopsy report makes no mention of DAI.
Gore testified that he did not test the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) because it was mixed with blood, whereas his autopsy report notes that the CSF was clear.
Gore testified decedent did not have meningitis; however, his autopsy report indicates that there was meningitis.
Gore listed baby Alan as a "black" baby. Alan and Francine are clearly Caucasian, as was baby Alan.
Gore also notes that Francine Yurko identified baby Alan's body, whereas the last time Francine saw her child was in his hospital room, the day prior to organ harvesting. Baby Alan went from organ harvesting, to the medical examiner and then on to the funeral home for cremation. At no time did Francine see, let alone identify her child once she left his hospital room.
Florida Department of Health investigations were begun after the Yurko's filed complaints against Guedes, Gore and Dr. Matthew Seibel (evaluating physician from the Child Protection System, who perjured himself). The evidence in these complaints is fully supported by the medical records and backed by experts.
Alan's appeal is underway in post-conviction (FL Rule, 3.850) proceedings. Alan is pseudo co-counsel to his appellate attorney Loren Rhoton, Esq. of Tampa, FL. Amicus briefs are being submitted to the court by dozens of experts, and the Yurko's are attempting to institute tort proceedings.
The Yurko Project website (www.freeyurko.bizland.com) gets tens of thousands of hits per month. It has become a huge compendium to help lawyers, doctors, and families gain justice. It also contains full documentation for all claims made, including the appellate brief and arguments; ongoing updates; reports by numerous experts; and a continually growing list of supporters.
The majority of experts actively supporting the case have waived their fees in the interest of justice, and several have agreed to pay their own expenses. The Project asks all concerned professionals to review the case and, if they see fit, to come forward, get involved, and help prevent the Yurko's tragic series of events from being experienced by other children and their parents.
Please refer to the Yurko Project Update page for more information.