The Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office will attempt to file new charges this week against Kevin Michael Boehmer, a 26-year-old Jamestown man who allegedly killed his infant daughter.
Because Boehmer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the existing charge, assault on a child under 8 years old resulting in a coma or paralysis, District Attorney Mike Knowles will have to receive permission from a judge to amend the complaint.
Knowles did not specify Friday what charge the man will face, but it will be related to homicide since the infant, 3-month-old Kalie Boehmer, has been declared dead.
She was pronounced dead by doctors at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, but Knowles said he was not informed until after filing a complaint for Boehmer’s arraignment on Wednesday.
Although declared dead, Kalie Boehmer has remained on life support to preserve her organs for donation, raising questions about the point at which death is declared.
Medical experts say brain death is widely accepted as the declaration of death.
“I think it’s pretty true to say that there’s a very broad consensus and agreement about the acceptance that brain death is equivalent to cardiopulmonary death as means of allowing a declaration of death,” said Connecticut-based pediatric neurologist Dr. Geoffrey Miller.
Miller, who is also a Yale School of Medicine professor with an academic interest in pediatric bioethics and neuroethics, said there have been arguments against it, but few of those voices have been loud.
Some opponents argue that a body cannot be declared dead when parts of it are still functioning, but Miller said just because some cells in a body are still alive does not necessarily mean the person is.
He described the declaration of death as a matter of “irreversibility” and “acceptance.”
The decision to pronounce someone dead is made when doctors determine a body will die without doubt if it is not on life support and no length of time will reverse that, Miller said.
He said declaring a person brain dead is “a process that needs to be practiced rigorously and repeatedly.”
Medical experts have also argued that an accurate determination of death is crucial to fulfilling the “dead-donor rule.” The rule states that a prospective organ donor must be determined dead before organs can be removed and that living patients should not be killed for or by organ procurement.
Kalie Boehmer’s parents both consented to removing the girl from life support and donating her organs.
Kevin Michael Boehmer having a say in those matters after being arrested on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child is “an ethical and moral dilemma,” Knowles said.
Knowles said, to his knowledge, Tiffany L. Tucker, of Aberdeen, Wash., has been identified as the child’s biological mother, but Boehmer has not been proven to be the biological father.
Tucker is incarcerated on charges of child cruelty or neglect in Washington, where Boehmer appeared to have lived recently.
Washington State has not located a birth certificate for Kalie Boehmer.
Miller did not want to comment on Boehmer and Tucker making medical decisions regarding the child, but noted it does not change the fact that death has been declared.
The Alameda County Coroner’s Office said it will do an autopsy on the organs that are not being donated.
Knowles could not discuss Kalie Boehmer’s injuries specifically because they are still being examined but said doctors have implied the injuries are not consistent with an accident.
She was initially taken to Sonora Regional Medical Center on Dec. 9 by her father because she was having difficulty breathing.
Hospital staff noticed several old bruises and injuries around the child’s neck and chest. They reported it to the Sheriff’s Office, and deputies arrested Boehmer, Sgt. Jeff Wilson said.
Boehmer was still in custody Monday morning on the same charge. His bail is $200,000.