In 2010, the Edelyn and Peter Yhip adopted twin boys, Ben and John, from Taiwan. The boys were 1-year-old at the time of their adoption. The Yhips were not told of Ben’s chronic health concerns that included multi-day hospitalizations and recurring infections. However, once in the U.S. and even without medical records from Taiwan, the Yhips sought continuous medical help for Ben who exhibited many medical abnormalities and was eventually put on a feeding tube, without any diagnoses. In November 2011, Ben was hospitalized and diagnosed with failure to thrive. At that time, bone scans showed abnormalities.
Then in April 2012, Ben stopped breathing at home. He was almost 3-years-old. Mrs. Yhip made a frantic 9-1-1 call and paramedics arrived and intubated an unresponsive Ben. At the hospital, bone scans showed unchanged abnormalities suggesting a genetic condition and the neurosurgeon opined Ben had suffered a stroke that caused his collapse and subdural hematoma. Ben was put on life support and arrangements were made for organ donation.
However, based on intracranial findings commonly associated with shaken baby syndrome or abusive head trauma, the autopsy reported the cause of death as blunt force trauma. No skull fracture, soft tissue swelling, or major bruising was visible – all common with this type of injury. The report also suggested the bone abnormalities were fractures, indicative of abuse.
Because of this, Mr. and Mrs. Yhip were charged with murder and arrested. Both were released on bail. Their 2 children were taken away.
In 2012-2013, the dependency court held a hearing on whether the Yhips should have custody of their other children. Defense experts reported that bone abnormalities were consistent with a medical condition, and that Ben had an infection that caused him to have stroke and collapse. Ultimately, the court found that there was substantial evidence showing Ben had died from infection and stroke, that the Yhips had always sought appropriate care for their child, and that there was no evidence of any criminal behavior. The Yhips’ children returned home.
Between 2013 and 2016, motions were made to the Superior Court, the Court of Appeal, and the CA Supreme Court, arguing the criminal case should be dismissed in light of the dependency court’s order and findings that Ben had died from illness. All motions were denied. Then in 2017, the DA consulted with another medical expert who reported in January of 2018 that she saw evidence of an infection running throughout Ben’s nervous system and thromboses (clots) in various places in the body, suggesting underlying medical conditions that caused his death.
By July 2018, the defense team gathered more expert reports on the question of infection vs. trauma, articles showing that a stroke can lead to a hematoma in children, and details on metabolic bone disease. After reviewing this additional information, the DA decided to drop all charges.