October 15 2019

Burlington Babysitter Initially Sentenced to Life in Death of Infant Case Sees Sentence Drastically Reduced

By: Rich Hosford

A Burlington woman who had initially been found guilty of second-degree murder of an infant and was sentenced to life in prison only to have her conviction reduced has been re-sentenced to a much shorter term. 

According to the Boston Globe, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman reduced the sentenced of Pallavi Macharla, 44, to up to four years in prison. Prosecutors had called for 10 to 15 years.  

Macharla was found guilty last May in the March, 2014 death of six-month-old Ridhima Dhekane who died while in the defendant’s care. Her initial conviction was reduced by Judge Fishman in August due to conflicting opinions by medical experts who conducted autopsies of the infant. 

When writing his explanation for reducing the conviction Judge Fishman called the second-degree murder conviction handed down by a jury was not “consonant with justice.” He cited conflicting theories put forward by different medical experts during the 4-week trial that ended with Macharla being sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. 


On March 27, 2014, the day after her six-month birthday, the victim was left in the care of a neighbor, Macharla, who regularly provided child care for the baby. At approximately 2:40 p.m., Macharla called the baby’s mother to say Ridhima was not responsive.


Ridhima’s mother raced to Macharla’s home and saw Macharla performing mouth-to-mouth respirations on her daughter who was limp and unresponsive. The mother immediately called 911. The defendant reported that the baby became unresponsive after vomiting following a feeding. First responders who arrived at the residence on Baron Park Lane in Burlington found the baby unresponsive and pulseless. The child was transported by ambulance to Lahey Hospital and then to Boston Children’s Hospital where she died three days later.


As reported by BNEWS, multiple medical experts testified in the case, including Dr. Anna McDonald, who performed the autopsy on six-month-old Ridhima Dhekane and initially determined the baby died from abusive head trauma and excessive shaking but who later said she was no longer convinced the death was a homicide. In 2016 she said that after reviewing reports from the defense she came to believe the child died from cardiac arrest.


While other medical experts disagreed with McDonald’s new opinion, Judge Fishman said in August the disagreement of experts made it impossible to justify the second-degree murder conviction. 


“This court cannot permit a verdict of second-degree murder to stand in the presence of such highly contested and inconsistent evidence,” he wrote in an August 19 decision. 


During her trial, Macharla contended the baby stopped breathing after being fed homemade applesauce prepared by the victim’s mother. She said she tried to do everything she could to save the baby’s life. She reiterated that claim in court last week and said she loved the child.


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