BURLINGTON, MA — A Middlesex County Superior Court jury found Pallavi Macharla, 44, of Burlington, guilty of second degree murder and of running an illegal daycare operation Monday. The case, which stems from the March 2014 death of a six-month-old baby Macharla was caring for, was given to the jury on Friday. She was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
“On the morning of March 27, 2014, the day after she turned six months old, the victim was dropped off at the defendant’s home, a perfectly healthy infant, and by the afternoon she was unresponsive and had sustained serious injuries,” Middlesex District Attorney Ryan said in a statement released after the verdict. “The victim’s family trusted Ms. Macharla to protect and care for their child. In part that trust was due to the defendant’s background as a trained medical professional. However, at about 2:40 p.m., when the baby became unresponsive while in the defendant’s care, Ms. Macharla called the victim’s mother instead of dialing 911.”
Both Macharla and her husband, who was seated in the courtroom, sobbed as the verdict was delivered by the jury, which deliberated for about eight hours. Umesh Dhekane, the father of Ridhima, the six-month-old girl Macharla was convicted of killing, said he missed his daughter’s smile and her crying during the victim impact statements.
“I wish I could hear her,” he said. “I hope she is in peace.”
Last week, Macharla took the stand and denied hitting or shaking the child. But she also said Wednesday “I told a few lies” when first questioned by Burlington Police. Macharla has maintained the child became unresponsive after a feeding on March 27, 2014.
The child died three days later, and a state Medical Examiner’s report was eventually changed the cause of death to “undetermined.” Prosecutors have built their case on the original report, which said the child was “violenty shaken.”
Earlier in the trial, a former Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s office employee said she changed a 2014 finding in the autopsy of a death of a six-month-old baby after reading medical articles that contradicted her previous beliefs on the case. Anna McDonald, who was performing her first autopsy involving suspected fatal baby shaken syndrome, left the office to take a similar job in North Carolina after performing the autopsy on Ridhima Dhekane, but reversed her opinion on the cause of death to “undetermined” more than a year later.
Macharla was released on $25,000 bail in December 2015 after the state Medical Examiners Office reversed its decision that the baby died after being violently shaken. Diagnostic tests and studies were performed, which revealed the baby was suffering from diffuse subdural hemorrhaging, diffuse subarachnoid hemorrhaging, diffuse and multilayered bilateral retinal hemorrhages and retinoschisis.
“The loss of any child is tragic,” Burlington Chief of Police Michael Kent said in a statement after Monday’s verdict. “To lose an innocent and defenseless child in such a violent and senseless manner is devastating. I extend my deepest condolences to the victim’s family. No guilty verdict can ever bring their loved one back, but I hope they will find some comfort in knowing the defendant will now be held accountable.”