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Trial Postponed For Father Accused of Poisoning Infant Son

April 2, 1990

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) _ A man accused of fatally poisoning his son in a scheme to collect damages from an infant formula maker goes on trial later this month in a case that languished until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way.

Ricky Irby, 28, is charged with murdering his son Quinten in 1986.

Irby says he was away when the poisoning occurred and contends the baby’s mother, Sheila Smith, fed him sulfuric acid-laced formula.

Smith, 27, whose murder trial begins in May, says she had nothing to do with her son’s death and has indicated the Irby may have been involved.

The case might never have come to trial because of the disappearance of an opened can of formula and a bottle tainted with acid. But the high court in 1988 ruled that evidence lost by accident does not preclude prosecution.

Jury selection in Irby’s case was scheduled to begin today, but was delayed until April 30 at the prosecution’s request. Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Matthew Chancey said he needed extra time to get information about additional witnesses defense attorneys plan to call to the stand. He said he learned of the witnesses over the weekend.

The parents are being tried separately because of their antagonistic defenses. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

Smith and Irby are being held on $1 million bail each.

Three-month-old Quinten Irby was poisoned in 1984 and lingered in a hospital for more than two years before dying at 2 1/2 .

He suffered severe burns that scarred his mouth and trachea, had one lung removed and remained on a respirator - apparently comatose - until his death.

Prosecutors allege the parents forced the boy to drink sulfuric acid in a murder-for-profit scheme in which a product-liability lawsuit was filed against the maker of Quinten’s baby formula. Irby filed the lawsuit in 1987 against Abbott Laboratories - which denied the allegations - but withdrew it a year later.

Smith, 27, was not a party to the lawsuit, said her lawyer, Laureen Cahill Casey.

The bottle and can of formula were tested by toxicologist Joerg Pirl at a state crime laboratory but disappeared with Pirl’s file in 1984.

Pirl underwent hypnosis in an effort to find the evidence, but the hypnotist later died, and Pirl could not recall what he had told the man, Ms. Casey said.

Investigators later determined the evidence had been destroyed accidentally by a lab clerical worker, and with no evidence the case essentially was closed. But after the Supreme Court ruling, Smith and Irby were indicted in 1989.

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