Aisling Brady McCarthy arrived in her native Ireland Wednesday morning, less than two days after Middlesex prosecutors dropped murder charges in connection with the death of a 1-year-old girl in her care.
Moving with uncharacteristic speed, federal immigration officials arrested the 37-year-old nanny Tuesday to begin deportation procedures, after the criminal charges were dropped. McCarthy had been living in the country illegally since 2002, according to US Immigration and Custom Enforcement, known as ICE.
“Brady McCarthy entered the United States in 2002 under the Visa Waiver Program and never left,” ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said in a statement. “As a significant violator of the Visa Waiver Program she is an ICE enforcement priority.”
McCarthy surrendered to federal custody around noon at ICE’s field office in Burlington.
Her attorney, David Meier, said Tuesday night that she left Boston on an evening flight to Ireland.
McCarthy’s flight landed at Shannon Airport early Wednesday, according to the Irish state broadcaster RTE. According to the Irish Independent, McCarthy said “yes” when asked if she was happy to be back in her native country — at which time, she started crying.
She did not make any other comments before leaving the airport, according to the Independent. A car waiting outside the terminal took her to an undetermined location.
Middlesex prosecutors dropped the charges against McCarthy on Monday after the medical examiner’s office changed its conclusion that the death of Cambridge infant Rehma Sabir was a homicide. It came 2½ years after McCarthy was arrested in connection with the child’s death.
The office concluded that the child’s medical history “could have made her prone to easy bleeding with relatively minor trauma,” raising doubts that she was a victim of abusive head trauma.
McCarthy’s defense team had submitted reports from a range of specialists challenging the conclusion that Rehma’s death was a homicide, prompting the medical examiner’s office in April to launch a thorough review of the case.
Medical examiner Katherine Lindstrom said that “enough evidence has been presented to raise the possibility that the bleeding could have been related to an accidental injury in a child with a bleeding risk or possibly could even have been a result of an undefined natural disease.”
The medical examiner’s office, which initially ruled that Rehma had died from blunt force head injuries, received additional information in the case until Aug. 20.
Prosecutors formally dropped the charges after meeting with the Sabir family Monday morning. The child’s parents could not be reached for comment.
Rehma was found unresponsive in her crib on Jan. 14, 2013, after having been in McCarthy’s sole care. She died two days later. Specialists said the child’s brain injuries were acute, and that there was no other medical explanation for her death.
But McCarthy had consistently declared her innocence, and her lawyers said she was the victim of a hasty investigation and a “rush to judgment.”
“The system failed her,” her lawyer, Melinda Thompson, said at a news conference Monday.
Thompson described her client’s time behind bars as “a complete nightmare.”
“She was deteriorating in jail, quite literally,” Thompson said. “She spent her days crying.”
“She can’t get those years back,” she added. “It’s just a disgrace what happened to her.”
In Ireland on Tuesday, news of the dismissal rippled through County Cavan, where McCarthy is from.
“We are all over the moon,” Val Smith, chairman of the Cavan County Council, told The Irish Times. “This is something that we were all supporting for the last 2½ years — her innocence.
“We knew from day one that she was innocent,” Smith said.
But Smith also sounded a note of caution around the idea of celebration. “Aisling has spent two years in jail, so I don’t know how you would celebrate that,” he said.
Luke Waters, a native of Ireland and a former New York Police Department detctive who was advising McCarthy’s relatives on the US justice system, told The Irish Times he had spoken with relatives, who “were very excited, very happy, very relieved. I would just imagine she will just want to move on with her life.”
Dismissal of the charges marks the latest collapse of a shaken-baby prosecution, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.
Deborah Tuerkheimer, a Northwestern University law professor who has written about shaken-baby syndrome, said the publicity around these dismissed cases helps educate law enforcement and medical officials to pause before applying the diagnosis. She said that, too often, any injured baby who shows up in a hospital with a triad of symptoms —- subdural hemorrhage, retinal bleeding, and brain swelling — is immediately considered a victim of shaken-baby syndrome.
“It’s important to maintain humility in the face of these symptoms,” said Tuerkheimer, author of “Flawed Convictions: ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ and the Inertia of Injustice.”