Update, December 16, 3:23 p.m.: A jury today rejected Sheryl Lynn Smith's Restoration of Sanity petition, which would have made all further medical and psychological treatments for the 46-year-old convicted in 1988 of murdering her
43-day-old son completely voluntary. Smith, whose last name was
Massip at the time of her original conviction, will have to continue to be supervised under the Orange County Conditional Release
Original Post, December 1, 9:24 a.m.: Sheryl Lynn Smith is in a Santa Ana courtroom this morning hoping a judge will say she is not crazy.
The 46-year-old was convicted by a jury in 1988 of murdering her
43-day-old son by bludgeoning him to death, placing his body under a
car's tire and running him over–before calling police to say an
African-American woman abducted the boy at gunpoint.
A court later found the woman then known as Sheryl Lynn Massip was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Smith has tried several times over the years to argue she was temporarily overtaken by the “baby blues” and that she should no longer be subject to outpatient treatment and supervision.
Here is the Orange County District Attorney's Office statement on her petition for Restoration of Sanity being denied (to the delight of prosecutors) . . .
Decmber 16, 2010
JURY DENIES PETITION FOR RESTORATION TO SANITY BY MOTHER WHO KILLED 43-DAY-OLD SON IN 1987
SANTA ANA – A jury denied a petition today for Restoration of Sanity by
46-year-old Sheryl Lynn Massip, who was convicted by a jury in 1988 of
murdering her 43-day-old son. The conviction was subsequently set aside
by the court, who determined that the defendant was not guilty by reason
of insanity. Massip was committed by the court in 1989 to outpatient
treatment and supervision and is now petitioning to have her sanity
restored and to be released from supervision. A jury denied her
petition today and Massip will therefore continue to be subject Orange
County Conditional Release Program (CONREP) supervision.
After her criminal case was resolved in 1989, Massip remarried and is now Sheryl Lynn Smith.
Circumstances of the Crime
On the morning of April 29, 1987, Smith (Massip) went for a walk near
her Anaheim home carrying her 43-day-old son, Michael. It was the
defendant's 23rd birthday. While walking in front of a nearby school,
Smith (Massip) threw her baby into the street in front of an oncoming
car. The driver of that car was able to swerve to avoid hitting the
child, and Smith (Massip) retrieved the baby from the road and returned
to her home.
Once inside their home, Smith (Massip) took baby Michael into the garage
and bludgeoned him with a blunt object. She then drove the
still-living victim to a remote residential area in Fullerton and parked
her car. Smith (Massip) took Michael from the car, placed him under the
front tire, got back into her vehicle, and killed her baby by driving
over his head.
Smith (Massip) got out of her car and picked up the crushed, dead baby,
wrapped him in a blanket, and drove him several blocks before dumping
his body in a trash can. Smith (Massip) then returned home, telling her
husband that their baby had been kidnapped at gunpoint by an
African-American woman. Smith's (Massip's) husband called the police,
who began an immediate search for the baby and his abductor.
Smith (Massip) and her husband were transported to the police department
and interviewed about the circumstances of the kidnapping. During a
moment alone, Smith's (Massip's) husband confronted her about
inconsistencies in the stories she had told to him and the police.
Massip then admitted to her husband that she had killed Michael and
confessed to police.
Circumstances of the Conviction
Massip was charged with murder for the death of baby Michael. The
defense presented evidence during trial that Smith (Massip) was
suffering from “Postpartum Psychosis” and was therefore not guilty by
reason of insanity. On Nov. 17, 1988, a jury rejected Smith's (Massip's)
insanity defense and found her guilty of murder.
On Dec. 23, 1988, Smith (Massip) was set to be sentenced. On that date,
the trial judge set aside the jury's murder verdict and reduced the
conviction to voluntary manslaughter. He then ruled that Smith (Massip)
was not guilty of that crime by reason of insanity and sent her for a
psychiatric evaluation. On March 3, 1989, the judge committed the
defendant to outpatient psychiatric treatment and supervision by
CONREP. As a result, Smith (Massip) was never required to serve any
time in prison or any time committed as an inpatient in a state-run
Treatment and Supervision
On Oct. 1, 1989, Smith (Massip) was admitted to Orange County CONREP for
outpatient psychiatric treatment and supervision. On Oct. 19, 2005,
Smith's (Massip's) case was transferred to the San Bernardino/Riverside
CONREP, as her family had relocated to Redlands. She has subsequently
relocated to Merced, where her case will be transferred to Merced County
CONREP if her petition for Restoration of Sanity is not granted by the
Smith's (Massip's) Petition for Restoration of Sanity
In this trial, Massip sought to be released from any further supervision
by CONREP. The restoration of sanity for Massip would have made all
further medical and psychological treatments for the defendant
completely voluntary. In order to be restored to sanity under Penal Code
1026.2, the defendant had the burden of proving that it is more likely
than not that she no longer poses a danger to the health and safety of
others as a result of a mental disease, defect or disorder. The People
argued that Smith (Massip) still poses such a danger and that her
continued supervised treatment is necessary to ensure the safety of the
A jury of 12 heard the evidence in this case and Smith (Massip) had the
burden to prove to at least nine of those jurors that her sanity should
be restored. The jurors determined that she did not carry her burden of
proof by a preponderance of the evidence and Smith (Massip) failed in
Deputy District Attorney
Aleta Bryant of the Special Prosecutions Unit handled this case.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.