In a videotaped conversation at Baltimore County police headquarters hours after her young son was declared dead in 2007, Susan J. Griffin veered from certainty to indecision when attempting to describe Andrew's condition in the weeks leading to his death.
"He's fine," she said at another point. "Well, he obviously isn't fine. It's just something I didn't see."
The woman's comments, in an interview with detectives that lasted almost nine hours, were played today in Baltimore County Circuit Court on the third day of a trial in which Griffin and her husband, John, are accused of first-degree murder and child abuse. Prosecutors said Andrew, who was almost 3 years old at the time of his death, weighed what a normal 3-month-old baby does, and was almost as tiny.
"I know he's small -- he's about 10, 15 pounds off," Griffin said. And yet, she noted, "Andrew eats everything in the house." Yes, she conceded, he had "little scratches" on his body, "but nothing major."
An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be starvation.
In the courtroom, Susan Griffin, 39, in a white blouse and wearing leg shackles, followed along with the video interview in a voluminous printed transcript. Her husband, also 39 and free on bail, sat beside her in a dark suit without visible expression.
On the screen, the woman spoke so rapidly that her words were almost indecipherable for much of the interview. During a break, Judge Timothy J. Martin said, "I wish I could slow her down."
Referring to the boy's injuries, Griffin said his mouth "looks really nasty," with signs that a tooth had penetrated his lip, but blamed it on the child's habit of biting himself. She said some of the scratches might have been made by one of Andrew's brothers.
Showing little grief over her son's passing just hours earlier, Griffin seemed more concerned about whether she and her husband -- who had four surviving children, with another on the way -- would be prosecuted, and when she might be allowed to go home. "My other kids, seeing how well they are, will that help my case at all?" she asked. "I've got nothing to hide."
Griffin was also worried about what detectives were doing at the family's house on Old Trail Road. "I don't know what they're looking for," she said. Told that police had found bloody paper towels in a trash can and blood spatter on the boy's bassinet and the walls and ceiling of the room, Griffin said Andrew "had nose bleeds" but could not explain how the blood had traveled so far.
Through DNA testing, investigators later matched blood from the room to the dead toddler.
Griffin could not say whether Andrew had eaten breakfast that day. "I honestly can't remember," she said. "It's a whirlwind."
She complained frequently of being exhausted and stressed, but, she said, "It doesn't make me want to go and harm my kids."
Later, she said, "I'm going to be blamed for the scratches, I guess."
She said she and her husband worried when guests came to their Rodgers Forge home that they would be accused of starving their children. She said she knew there was something wrong with the boy but had been trying to "fatten him up"on her own.
"I didn't kill this child," she said. "At least I didn't think I did in any conscious way."
In charging documents, detectives wrote that John Griffin, a computer systems engineer, explained his son's malnourished state as a lingering effect of a flu-like illness he suffered a few months earlier. He also told police that he had not taken Andrew to the pediatrician because of a billing dispute with the doctor's office.