Contra Costa Times                                                                                    January 9, 2003

Eldridge Charges Dismissed

Former foster mother had been convicted of abusing two infants in 1996 to draw attention to herself


By Claire Booth

Yvonne Eldridge, the former Walnut Creek foster mother accused of abusing children in her care just to draw attention to herself, had all criminal charges against her dismissed Wednesday.

The Attorney General's Office dismissed two counts of child abuse, saying the unavailability of a witness meant the prosecution could not continue.

A delighted Eldridge said the dismissal was nothing less than proof she did not commit the abuse. She has been fighting the accusations since 1991. "To me, this is a vindication. That's how I take it," she said. "It is truly a good day."

Supervising deputy attorney general Joyce Blair, who prosecuted Eldridge during her first trial in 1996, said that she was unable to proceed without a critical medical witness. "The case is over," she said.

Doctors came forward in 1991 with concerns that Eldridge, a foster mother honored by the White House, was abusing two babies in her care by making them ill. In 1994, she was indicted on the two child abuse counts.

Her highly publicized trial in 1996 included testimony regarding a bizarre disorder called Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, an illness where a person makes another sick in order to draw attention to themselves.

A Contra Costa Superior Court jury found her guilty.

Trial Judge Peter Spinetta granted her a new trial in 2000, however, because her first attorney was ineffective. An appellate court agreed, which left prosecutors with two choices: taking
Eldridge to trial again or dropping the charges.

"The thing is that it didn't seem to me at this juncture that the prosecution had a very good case," said Eldridge's attorney, Zenia Gilg.

Medical experts who reviewed the babies' voluminous medical records on behalf of Eldridge -- after the trial -- said they would have been able to testify favorably and refute prosecution doctors.

"That's why I feel really vindicated," Eldridge said. "Anybody who wants to read (the medical records), it's public record, it's there for anybody to read it."

During the 1996 trial, the prosecution alleged that Eldridge showed symptoms of Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome.

Although the disorder's name was never introduced at trial, several medical doctors testified for the prosecution that the two little girls had long lists of serious ailments that worsened when Eldridge began caring for them.

The babies, both born to drug-addicted mothers, started to thrive when taken away from Eldridge, the doctors testified.

Eldridge has been out on bail while her case was on appeal. Wednesday, she said she had expected her court date to result in another delay in the long-running case. That didn't happen.
"I am so glad it's over and I can finally get on with my life," she said.

Claire Booth covers courts. Reach her at 925-228-6177 or

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