Eight months had passed since Shakira Shaw’s 1-year-old son, Kaleb, died from what a medical examiner called a natural death by heart arrhythmia. Then in late August, Shaw picked up the phone, dialed police and asked a simple question:
“How long someone would go to jail for admitting they did something to their deceased child?" detectives wrote in court charging documents.
The call sent Baltimore County police scrambling to her Windsor Mill home, led to a quick confession and ended with Shaw’s haunting tale of hearing voices of two babies she lost before birth telling her to kill Kaleb. Although Shaw now lives in Baltimore County, she lived in the city with Kaleb at the time of his death, and they handled the investigation and brought the charges.
Shakira Shaw, 22, told police that she suffocated Kaleb on Dec. 28, 2019. Yet the details of the death and what led up to it as described in the charging document reveal she was struggling to come to grips with traumatic circumstances from years earlier.
Shaw is being held without bail on charges that include first-degree murder, child abuse and first- and second-degree assault, according to Maryland court records.
According to the charging documents, Kaleb Shaw was with his mother at a home in the 400 block of Aisquith St. in Baltimore City last December when he became unresponsive. City firefighters took him to Johns Hopkins Hospital and he died there a short time later. An initial autopsy said the infant died of natural causes.
At the time, Shaw told police she and her son were lying on her bed around 5 p.m. and he fell asleep on her shoulder. She said she laid him on his stomach on the other side of the bed and left the room to take a shower, according to charging documents.
She told police when she came back Kaleb’s lips were blue and he was cold. She shook him, checked his pulse and called 911, she told police, according to the court documents.
The case remained closed until August. When confessing, she recounted the stress from an Oct. 31, 2016, abortion and a 2019 miscarriage she suffered during her pregnancy in November 2019, just one month before Kaleb’s death.
Shaw told police she had the abortion after being “mentored on the responsibilities of raising a child by her mother." She said the 2019 miscarriage came after she broke up with her boyfriend while pregnant with his child, although they were still living together at the time of Kaleb’s death, the charging documents said.
Shaw said that after the miscarriage she began “hearing voices” referencing the deaths of the unborn children, according to charging documents. She told police she heard voices from the two previous babies “and that voices were telling her to kill Kaleb,” according to charging documents.
“Ms. Shaw advised that on the day of the incident, the voices became overwhelming,” police said in the charging documents.
When her former boyfriend went to work, Shaw said, she wrapped the infant in covers on the bed attempting to suffocate him. When that did not work, she held her hand over his face until he stopped breathing. Shaw then went to take a shower. Shaw said she contemplated telling police the truth at that point, but instead told them the story that she found Kaleb in bed after her shower, the charging documents said.
On Aug. 24, a medical examiner updated Kaleb Shaw’s death certificate to include “asphyxia homicide” and ruled that the cause of death was suffocation, according to charging documents.