CLEVELAND (AP) — A 12-year-old boy who was shaken as a baby and remained in a vegetative state for the rest of his life has died, authorities said Wednesday.
Aiden Stein died Sunday at a Columbus hospital. The case drew national attention when his parents waged a successful legal fight to prevent a court-appointed guardian from having him removed from life support. Three doctors had testified that Aiden would never recover.
The Ohio Supreme Court eventually ruled that a probate court lacked the authority to allow a guardian to stop the care keeping Aiden alive when his parents hadn’t permanently lost their parenting rights.
Four-month-old Aiden was rushed to a Mansfield hospital in March 2004 after his father, 21-year-old Matthew Stein, reported the baby had lost consciousness. Stein was later convicted of felonious assault and child endangerment and spent eight years in prison despite his assertions that he never injured his son.
Subsequent motions for a new trial, including one from 2013, were denied by appellate courts.
Richland County Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it was “unlikely” she’d pursue further charges against Stein.
“I would have to look at the reason (Aiden) died,” Couch Page said. “But there would probably be a stretch in jurors’ minds that he died as the result of what the dad did.”
It’s unclear if a cause of death has been determined. Messages left with the Franklin County coroner weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.
Aiden’s mother, Arica Heimlich, joined her fiance in fighting Aiden’s removal from life support and told authorities she didn’t believe Stein injured their son. A doctor at a children’s hospital in Akron diagnosed Aiden with a traumatic brain injury that he said was consistent with child abuse.
The Akron hospital’s ethics committee recommended that a guardian be appointed to oversee his care because of suspicions about Stein and Heimlich’s support for him. The panel also recommended that Aiden be removed from life support.
Three doctors testified at a Summit County Probate Court hearing in April 2004 that Aiden was in a permanent vegetative state and that his injuries were consistent with being shaken. A doctor representing Aiden’s parents said it would be inappropriate to withdraw that care.
The judge hearing the case appointed a guardian and gave her authority to stop life-sustaining medical treatment. An appellate court upheld that ruling, which the Ohio Supreme Court overturned in December 2004.
Neither Stein nor Heimlich have publicly listed telephone numbers. They couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
This story has been corrected to show that the guardian was appointed by a probate judge, not a hospital.
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