She joked that before he died, her nearly 3-year-old son weighed less than her infant daughter. She offered no explanation for the blood that police found on the bedroom walls and ceiling or on the bassinet in which the boy often slept -- other than the bloody noses that she said she and her children suffered in the dry winter air. And she said she and her husband worried whenever company came to their Rodgers Forge home that they would be accused of starving their children.
In a nearly nine-hour interview with police the day her husband drove their son's skeletal, bruised and lifeless body to a local hospital, Susan J. Griffin told detectives that she knew there was something wrong with her youngest 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."
A digital video recording of Griffin's interview provides the first chance to see and hear the woman -- who is charged with murder -- as she describes the events surrounding her young child's death. It also includes new details about what she told detectives.
The Baltimore Sun obtained access to the recording of the Dec. 26 interview after successfully challenging in Baltimore County Circuit Court a defense attorney's pretrial request to seal the video recording.
Griffin, 38, and her husband are charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of Andrew Patrick Griffin. Covered in scabs and bruises, including one black eye, the boy weighed about 13 pounds -- roughly the weight of a typical 3-month-old -- when he died at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. An autopsy later revealed the cause of death to be starvation.
Because the lawyer for her husband, John J. Griffin, 39, did not challenge the admissibility of his statements to police, as his wife's lawyers did, his interview was not available for viewing.
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 in August or September last year. He also told police that he had not taken Andrew to the pediatrician because of a billing dispute with the doctor's office.
"What did you want me to do ... pay $400 to have my child seen by a doctor and work out the details with the insurance company later?" detectives quoted him as saying in court documents.
Baltimore County prosecutor Robin S. Coffin has said in court that Andrew Griffin did not die as a result of mere neglect. Rather, he was beaten and starved to death, she said -- protracted, deliberate abuse that she said was "a shock to the conscience" and "tantamount to torture."
When she handed up a laptop computer containing autopsy photos of the toddler at a pretrial hearing, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Martin clicked through several of the images before slamming shut the laptop. "I've seen enough," he said, later describing the photographs as "horrifying" and "upsetting to the extreme."
Michelle Moodispaw, an attorney for Susan Griffin, described her client as a "loving mother who cares very much for all seven of her children. This is inconsistent with the charges against Mr. and Mrs. Griffin."
Moodispaw said her client spoke to police within hours of learning that her son had died and did so believing she was helping the investigation. "We are confident that the evidence presented at trial will show that Andrew's death was not due to any criminal conduct, neglect or abuse," she said.
Susan and John Griffin, who lived in the 300 block of Old Trail Road, were arrested in the early-morning hours of Dec. 27, after being questioned separately for hours by detectives at Baltimore County police headquarters in Towson.
Distraught and six months pregnant with her seventh child, Susan Griffin, a stay-at-home mother who had worked as a medical assistant before starting her family, talked incessantly with the detectives who took turns questioning her. With her short, dark hair pulled back in a headband, she frequently fidgeted with the neck of her white turtleneck and the pockets and zippers of her L.L. Bean winter coat.
She complained of persistent exhaustion, of being distracted over the death of her mother seven months earlier and of a headache, "spaciness" and nausea from the flu that she said had been winding its way through her family. She repeatedly asked to see her husband and children. And she made several requests to be allowed to smoke in the small, plain interrogation room, telling one detective who finally brought her a cigarette, "I'm not usually a menthol person but that's all right."
She told police that Andrew had "no health problems that I've been aware of," other than "an underweight problem." She admitted that the toddler, who would have celebrated his 3rd birthday in February, had seen a doctor only once in his life. And she told detectives that she was searching for a new pediatrician for her family after their doctor refused to see her children because of an unpaid $80 bill.
When one detective pointed out that her other children -- including her 1-year-old daughter -- had not weighed as little as Andrew since they were very young, she responded, "That's what we kept saying. We joke he looks like an infant. Lindsey's bigger than he is."
She told detectives that no one who had seen Andrew in the month before his death expressed concern for his condition, including her mother-in-law -- a nurse -- her father, her sister-in-law and any neighbors or strangers who might have seen them during a shopping trip to Target.
But the Griffins' two oldest children -- Douglas and Kaitlyn, both of whom attend Rodgers Forge Elementary -- told police that they had not seen their youngest brother much before he died, Detective Mark Lane told her.
And Susan Griffin later suggested that she might have held off seeking medical treatment for him for fear of what might have happened to the rest of her family.
"So I'm upset and worried and I run him to the hospital so they can say I did something to him that I didn't do? That sometimes has been why, why," she stammered to Lane, who works in the police department's unit that investigates crimes against children.
"I'm tired of being accused of something we didn't do when we tried to get care and the doctor wouldn't see us," she added, apparently referring again to the billing dispute with the pediatrician.
Lane pressed her on the issue.
"You know, if anyone came into the room and saw [Andrew], they would say, 'Oh my God,'" he told her. "You didn't seek help because ... if social services saw Andrew the way he is, what would they..."
Susan Griffin cut him off.
"They'd remove all my kids," she said. "It looks like they're doing that anyway."
But Lane also told her that after talking to her two elementary school-age children, whom he described as smart, polite and well-groomed, it was obvious that she was a good mother to them.
In another segment of the interview, homicide detective Al Barton questioned Susan Griffin at length about blood that police found spattered on all four walls and the ceiling of the master bedroom. Andrew often slept there in a bassinet that was coated with blood. Through DNA testing, investigators later matched blood from the room to the dead toddler, prosecutors have said.
Asked about the bloody bassinet, Susan Griffin told the detective that Andrew as well as Lindsey, her infant, had suffered nosebleeds in the small cradle and that Andrew had been picking at scabs there.
"That's what I've been so worried about," she said.
Barton responded, "You can't have been too worried about him. He's only been to the doctor once since he's been born."
Susan Griffin fired back: "I see, so you are saying I did something. ... Because there's blood in the bassinet, now I beat the hell out of my kids. I love that boy."
The detective also told her that the only way blood could have been spattered on the walls and ceiling the way police found "is to be flinging something around the room that has blood on it."
"Right," she responded. "If you're flinging something around. I'm not flinging the kids around, and nobody else is."
She suggested that the blood might have been spattered when she wiped Andrew's face - he had been biting the insides of his cheeks and sometimes spitting up blood, she said - and then tossed those towels "up in the air."
"Yeah," Barton responded, "it doesn't happen like that."
"I don't know how it happens then, because I didn't do anything to him," she said. "Geez oh wheeze, I feel like I need to put gloves on to touch my children now."
Susan Griffin's attorneys had argued that her interview with police should be excluded from trial because she was suffering from the flu and was pregnant and that she had been misled to believe that she would be permitted to return home as soon as she told police what she knew of her son's death. But the judge ruled that she understood her rights to have a lawyer and had agreed to speak with detectives anyway. He also found that police made no promises to coerce her into speaking with them.
The Griffins are scheduled to go to trial in February.
Susan Griffin is being held in lieu of $1 million bond at the county detention center. She has not asked for that bail to be reduced.
John Griffin was released on $100,000 bond after a judge granted his request in May to lower bail that initially had been set at $1.5 million.
The Griffins' five children -- including the baby boy born after Susan Griffin's arrest -- have been placed in foster care, with the oldest two assigned to live with John Griffin's mother.