A neighbor in a suburban Austin neighborhood appeared to be the perfect babysitter for Eryn Baugh's infant son and his 2-year-old sister.
"She's the most sweet, endearing person in the world and put forward this good Christian front," Baugh said of Cathy Lynn Henderson, who lived two blocks away. "She could sell snow to an Eskimo."
But just weeks after Henderson started working for the Baughs in 1994, 3-month-old Brandon was dead and Henderson had fled the state. The infant's body was found buried 60 miles (96 kilometers) away with his skull crushed, wrapped in his yellow-trimmed white blanket and stuffed into a box that previously held Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers.
Henderson, 50, is set to die on June 13 for the slaying that made her one of the most hated women in Texas. She would be just the 12th woman among the nearly 1,100 convicted killers executed since capital punishment resumed in the United States in 1977.
Henderson insists Brandon died in an accidental fall and that her decision to bury him and flee was made in panic, not in cold blood.
"It's apparent I wasn't thinking clearly," Henderson told The Associated Press recently from the state's female death row outside Gatesville.
"I think I was in shock, disbelief. I just didn't know what I was doing. That baby was dead. I didn't want to deal with that. There was too much sorrow. It hurt, it hurt," she said, tearing up. "When I look back at it, it does kind of look like I was guilty, doesn't it?"
Henderson's case has been championed by Sister Helen Prejean of "Dead Man Walking" fame. Supporters say new engineering data interpreting Brandon's skull fracture could better support Henderson's contention the child's death was an accident and her life should be spared.
"What I would like to happen is to either get a new trial or charge me with what I'm really guilty of, and murder is not one of them, even injury to a child is not one of them," Henderson said. "I think involuntary manslaughter, negligence, something in those areas, because I did not wake up to intentionally harm Brandon."
Henderson was supposed to be executed last month, but it was postponed after her lawyers won a delay.
"We're getting experts, a new kind of expert for head injuries," said Prejean, based in New Orleans. "They look into the physics of it."
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