August 27 2019

Burlington Woman Found Guilty in Baby’s Death has Conviction Reduced to Manslaughter

By: Rich Hosford

A Burlington woman who was found guilty of second-degree murder of an infant has had her conviction reduced to manslaughter and may leave prison earlier than originally expected. 

According to the Boston Globe, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman reduced the conviction of Pallavi Macharla, 44, who had been found guilty last May in the March 2014 death of six-month-old Ridhima Dhekane who died while in the defendant’s care to manslaughter. 

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 non-responsive. 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 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.

Judge Fishman agreed that he did not believe Macharla intentionally harmed the infant, noting that she was seen giving the child medical attention, but still denied a motion to acquit the case entirely.

“It appears that the defendant had no history of abusive behavior toward children in the past but rather was a patient, considerate, and loving caretaker of children,” he wrote. “There is, however, a child who has tragically died, coupled with evidence of extraordinary internal injuries that some experts would attribute to abusive head trauma in the form of a shaking and/or a blow.”

A new sentencing date has been scheduled for Sept. 27.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office told the Boston Globe they are still reviewing the decision and did not have a comment at this time.


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