On this episode of the Global News podcast Crime Beat, crime reporter Nancy Hixt shares a story of a child whose life was silenced, snuffed out and stolen-- so young he never had a chance.
In the summer of 2010, EMS were called to a Calgary home where an 18-year-old single mom, Shelby Herchak, lived with her parents and her baby.
The infant, just 26 days old, was rushed to hospital.
But baby Daniel Herchak’s injuries were so severe, he died hours later.
At a media conference soon after, Calgary police stated the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head. Officers said Daniel’s injuries were believed to be non-accidental in nature.
Police formally interviewed Herchak twice and said her story changed each time--and the explanations didn’t add up when compared to the evidence.
14 days after baby Daniel died, his mother was charged with second-degree murder.
But the case would take several major turns.
Herchak had bail granted and revoked several times.
Then, in September of 2012, the trial date was abandoned and the case was temporarily put on hold--while some of the work done by the medical examiner, in this case, was reviewed.
Alberta Justice ordered an independent external review panel to look at 14 of Dr. Evan Matshes’ cases.
The panel found his findings “unreasonable” in 13 of those 14 cases.
In baby Daniel's case, the panel agreed with the finding of homicide, and the cause of death-- but deemed his findings unreasonable because he noted there were signs of prior abuse.
Then, that government review-- was called into question.
A Queen’s Bench Justice ruled the government review was unfair and quashed the results. The judge also ordered Alberta Justice to pay for a large portion of Matshes legal costs.
In this episode, Dr. Matshes speaks to Hixt about the review. It’s the first time he’s ever spoken to a reporter about the investigation and he said he wanted to set the record straight.
Because of the controversy surrounding the government review another pathologist provided expertise in the Herchak case instead of Matshes.
They came up with the same findings: it was deemed a homicide and the cause of death was blunt force head trauma.
Daniel suffered two fractures to the skull, extensive bleeding, bruising to the head and face, bruising and swelling of the brain, nerve damage along the spine, bruising to the chest abdomen and back and hemorrhaging to both eyes
Then, on the eve of her trial, Shelby Herchak pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
She was sentenced to five and a half years in jail but with credit for time in custody pre-trial, she had just two and a half left to serve.
It was only during that time in prison, the Herchak finally shed light on what happened that fateful morning.
Hear those admissions, along with an exclusive interview with the primary investigator in this case in this episode of Crime Beat: Daniel, silenced at 26 days.