[UPDATED:] Sheryl Lynn Massip, Who Killed and Ran Over Her Baby in 1988, Loses Sanity Bid

Update, December 16, 3:23 p.m.:

A jury today rejected

Sheryl Lynn Smith

's Restoration of Sanity petition, which would have made

all further medical and psychological treatments for the 46-year-old convicted in 1988 of murdering her 43-day-old son completely voluntary. Smith, whose last name was Massip at the time of her original conviction, will have to continue to be supervised under the Orange County Conditional Release Program.

Original Post, December 1, 9:24 a.m.:

Sheryl Lynn Smith is in a Santa Ana courtroom this morning hoping a judge will say she is not crazy.

The 46-year-old was convicted by a jury in 1988 of murdering her 43-day-old son by bludgeoning him to death, placing his body under a car's tire and running him over--before calling police to say an African-American woman abducted the boy at gunpoint.

A court later found the woman then known as Sheryl Lynn Massip was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Smith has tried several times over the years to argue she was temporarily overtaken by the "baby blues" and that she should no longer be subject to outpatient treatment and supervision.

Here is the Orange County District Attorney's Office statement on her petition for Restoration of Sanity being denied (to the delight of prosecutors) . . .

Decmber 16, 2010


SANTA ANA - A jury denied a petition today for Restoration of Sanity by 46-year-old Sheryl Lynn Massip, who was convicted by a jury in 1988 of murdering her 43-day-old son. The conviction was subsequently set aside by the court, who determined that the defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity. Massip was committed by the court in 1989 to outpatient treatment and supervision and is now petitioning to have her sanity restored and to be released from supervision.  A jury denied her petition today and Massip will therefore continue to be subject Orange County Conditional Release Program (CONREP) supervision.

After her criminal case was resolved in 1989, Massip remarried and is now Sheryl Lynn Smith.

Circumstances of the Crime
On the morning of April 29, 1987, Smith (Massip) went for a walk near her Anaheim home carrying her 43-day-old son, Michael. It was the defendant's 23rd birthday. While walking in front of a nearby school, Smith (Massip) threw her baby into the street in front of an oncoming car. The driver of that car was able to swerve to avoid hitting the child, and Smith (Massip) retrieved the baby from the road and returned to her home.

Once inside their home, Smith (Massip) took baby Michael into the garage and bludgeoned him with a blunt object.  She then drove the still-living victim to a remote residential area in Fullerton and parked her car. Smith (Massip) took Michael from the car, placed him under the front tire, got back into her vehicle, and killed her baby by driving over his head.

Smith (Massip) got out of her car and picked up the crushed, dead baby, wrapped him in a blanket, and drove him several blocks before dumping his body in a trash can. Smith (Massip) then returned home, telling her husband that their baby had been kidnapped at gunpoint by an African-American woman. Smith's (Massip's) husband called the police, who began an immediate search for the baby and his abductor.

Smith (Massip) and her husband were transported to the police department and interviewed about the circumstances of the kidnapping. During a moment alone, Smith's (Massip's) husband confronted her about inconsistencies in the stories she had told to him and the police. Massip then admitted to her husband that she had killed Michael and confessed to police.

Circumstances of the Conviction
Massip was charged with murder for the death of baby Michael. The defense presented evidence during trial that Smith (Massip) was suffering from "Postpartum Psychosis" and was therefore not guilty by reason of insanity. On Nov. 17, 1988, a jury rejected Smith's (Massip's) insanity defense and found her guilty of murder.

On Dec. 23, 1988, Smith (Massip) was set to be sentenced. On that date, the trial judge set aside the jury's murder verdict and reduced the conviction to voluntary manslaughter.  He then ruled that Smith (Massip) was not guilty of that crime by reason of insanity and sent her for a psychiatric evaluation.  On March 3, 1989, the judge committed the defendant to outpatient psychiatric treatment and supervision by CONREP.  As a result, Smith (Massip) was never required to serve any time in prison or any time committed as an inpatient in a state-run psychiatric facility.

Treatment and Supervision
On Oct. 1, 1989, Smith (Massip) was admitted to Orange County CONREP for outpatient psychiatric treatment and supervision. On Oct. 19, 2005, Smith's (Massip's) case was transferred to the San Bernardino/Riverside CONREP, as her family had relocated to Redlands. She has subsequently relocated to Merced, where her case will be transferred to Merced County CONREP if her petition for Restoration of Sanity is not granted by the jury.

Smith's (Massip's) Petition for Restoration of Sanity
In this trial, Massip sought to be released from any further supervision by CONREP. The restoration of sanity for Massip would have made all further medical and psychological treatments for the defendant completely voluntary. In order to be restored to sanity under Penal Code 1026.2, the defendant had the burden of proving that it is more likely than not that she no longer poses a danger to the health and safety of others as a result of a mental disease, defect or disorder.  The People argued that Smith (Massip) still poses such a danger and that her continued supervised treatment is necessary to ensure the safety of the public. 

A jury of 12 heard the evidence in this case and Smith (Massip) had the burden to prove to at least nine of those jurors that her sanity should be restored. The jurors determined that she did not carry her burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence and Smith (Massip) failed in her petition.

Deputy District Attorney Aleta Bryant of the Special Prosecutions Unit handled this case.


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