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Cops: Man Fathered Baby To Kill It

June 28, 1999

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) _ Ronald L. Shanabarger planned his revenge against his wife for several years: He wanted to father their son and then kill him, police said.

According to investigators, Shanabarger told police he planned the crime to exact punishment on his wife, Amy, who had refused to cut short a vacation to comfort him after his father passed away.

``Shanabarger said he planned to make Amy feel the way he did when his father died,″ prosecutors said in an affidavit filed to support a murder charge.

Last Tuesday, just hours after the funeral of his 7-month-old son, Tyler, Shanabarger confessed to his wife that he’d killed their son, investigators said. A coroner had ruled the infant died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The next day, Shanabarger, 30, allegedly told police he suffocated Tyler with plastic wrap and that he dreamed up the crime after his father’s death in 1996.

The affidavit said Shanabarger’s plan included marrying Amy and getting her pregnant. He then ``allowed time for her to bond with the child, and then took his life,″ the affidavit said.

Authorities said Shanabarger begged officers to shoot him after he confessed last Wednesday. Held without bail, he was due in court this morning.

``It’s the most bizarre case that I’ve ever had any dealings with and probably the most bizarre motive I’ve ever heard of,″ Johnson County prosecutor Hamner said Sunday.

According to prosecutors, Shanabarger said that on the evening of June 19, he wrapped plastic wrap around his son’s face, then left the boy’s nursery to get something to eat and brush his teeth.

Twenty minutes later, he returned, removed the plastic and placed Tyler face down in the crib before he went to bed, prosecutors said.

Amy Shanabarger, 29, had been working that night as a grocery store cashier. When she came home, she went straight to bed, assuming that Tyler was asleep. She found the boy’s body the next morning _ Father’s Day.

Shanabarger, who worked at a tire retreading center, told police he confessed because he was haunted by the image of his son’s face _ flat and purplish from rigor mortis, according to investigators.

Since then, he’s confessed at least three times, Police Chief Harry Furrer said Sunday. Each time, police said, the story has been the same _ that he hatched his plan because he was enraged by his then-girlfriend’s refusal to cut short a cruise and return home after his father’s death in October 1996.

The Shanabargers were married the following May.

The Rev. Randy Maynard, a volunteer police chaplain, accompanied officers to the couple’s home in this town south of Indianapolis on Father’s Day.

While most parents of children who die from SIDS console each other, Shanabarger was cold, distant and offered no comfort to his sobbing wife, Maynard said.

And after Mrs. Shanabarger’s parents arrived later, Shanabarger gave his father-in-law a Father’s Day gift _ a gift-wrapped commemorative knife _ Maynard said. Shanabarger then passed the knife around, showing it to the officers.

``That really struck me as odd,″ he said.

Maynard said he’s still troubled by the image of Tyler’s tiny face.

``He was a beautiful boy,″ he said. ``Even in death, he was just the most beautiful boy. I’m still getting goose bumps thinking about this guy.″

Shanabarger’s father-in-law, Robert Parsons, wears a tiny gold cherub pin to remind him of his grandson, who was born Thanksgiving Day. He won’t discuss his son-in-law, but says his daughter, an only child, is devastated.

``I don’t want people to just to talk about a 6- or 7-month-old infant _ a nameless, faceless infant. He was a little boy, he played, he laughed, he loved. We loved him dearly and that’s what this is all about,″ Parsons said.

``We don’t want vengeance, but we do want justice.″

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