BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – On November 10, 2012 inside a house on Heath Street in Buffalo, police say 7-week-old Michael Clifford Jr. sustained injuries that would take his life.
According to the autopsy report both of the newborn’s legs were broken as were several ribs. Inside his head were several brain bleeds and a hemorrhaged optic nerve, that police call a classic case of shaken baby syndrome.
Carlos Maggiolo was the next-door neighbor to the the child’s mother, Siobhan Thomas, and answered his door that morning to her asking him for help.
“The baby looked like he wasn’t breathing for awhile already,” Maggiolo told News 4. “I laid him on the couch, starting giving mouth-to-mouth while they were talking with 911. But I think it was to late at that time.”
Little Michael died at Women and Children’s Hospital. His death was ruled a homicide.
According to Buffalo Police, only two adults were home when Michael was assaulted; his parents, Michael Clifford Sr., and Siobhan Thomas.
Maggiolo said the parents told him the baby simply woke up that way. They didn’t tell him someone hurt the baby.
“Yeah, and something made him stop breathing and after a little while after that they brought him over here,” Maggiolo said.
A source close to the investigation tells News 4 the baby’s mother initially told police her daughter, who was 21-months old at the time, hurt the baby by playing too rough. But police say when they tried question the parents further, both of them retained a lawyer and neither one would help police.
When News 4’s Lou Raguse tried to speak to the couple Michael and Siobhan came to answer the door, but wouldn’t explain what happened. Michael claimed he gave police a statement.
When asked what happened to his baby, he only replied, “All right, see you later,” before closing the door.
To this day, no one has been charged in the baby’s death.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita declined an interview. So News 4 showed the autopsy report to former DA Frank Clark, who immediately said the injuries were not something the baby could sustain while sleeping.
Clark says the injuries reflect a typical shaken baby case. But he also pointed to healing fractures in the baby’s ribs, calling them “disturbing” and saying they could indicate prior injuries had been sustained. “When you see multiple healing fractures, that to me signifies abuse,” Clark said.
Clark explained why, if the parents won’t cooperate, why no one has been charged with the baby’s death. The DA can’t just charge them both, he said. “You have to show who did it. And if they are only two people in the house, and there’s no other evidence to point at one or the other, then you’re stuck,” Clark said.
While no one has been charged criminally in the case, family court has taken action against the couple.
Child Protective Services have taken Michael and Siobhan’s other child, a young girl, and put her in the custody of Michael’s parents, Doug & Lynn Clifford. The elder Cliffords are hoping the judge doesn’t place the little girl back into the home where baby Michael was killed.
Doug and Lynn Clifford declined an interview at the advice of their lawyer, since the family court case is pending. Friends of theirs tell News 4 they are hoping to one day see justice for baby Michael.
When Michael died, he saved lives as an organ donor.