Shaken baby dies; additional charges considered against Vandergrift man

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 12:06 p.m.

A 2-month-old girl has died from injuries she suffered when her father, of Vandergrift, shook her to get her to stop crying, state police said.

State police are charging Matthew Milisits, 30, of Sherman Avenue, Vandergrift, with aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children, related to the death of Sophia Ludwiczak, who police said is his daughter.

Troopers say that Milisits, who initially told police he questioned his paternity of the girl, was alone with Sophia in his home early on Nov. 15.

Police allege that he admitted accidentally striking her head against a bathroom door and violently shaking her when she cried and had a bowel movement.

After the 3-hour visit, Milisits took Sophia to her mother, Samantha Ludwiczak, in her North Apollo house. There, police said in an affidavit, Sophia took “two gasping breaths and stopped breathing.”

Ambulance and helicopter crews worked on the unresponsive baby, who was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

According to the affidavit, a hospital physician told troopers the baby had four unexplained bruises on her forehead.

The infant was removed from life support at the hospital Monday evening.

A death certificate issued Tuesday said Sophia died from lack of oxygen to the brain caused by head injury. The manner of death is under investigation.

An Allegheny County Medical Examiner's spokesman said that conclusion is based on an autopsy done Tuesday morning for Westmoreland County prosecutors by Dr. Cyril Wecht.

The family hoped to donate the baby's organs, but autopsy ruled out that possibility.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John W. Peck said Wecht was authorized to do the autopsy because the pathologist said it was needed to find a cause of death.

Wecht said the exam would rule out other potential causes.

“This is a 2-month-old without a medical history,” Wecht said. “We needed to make sure.”Peck said troopers and prosecutors will discuss in coming days whether further charges against Milisits are warranted.Samantha Ludwiczak wasn't able to talk about her daughter Tuesday. She was spending the day with her two surviving children, a boy, 7, and a girl, 5, and other family.“How can anyone ever get over the death of a baby?” asked Ludwiczak's friend, Christine Stasenko, of Washington Township.

“Sophia was a angel who didn't deserve to have this happen to her,” Stasenko said. “I just hope justice is served.”

Fundraisers set for Sunday

Stasenko and others, including members of Ludwiczak's church, the Solid Rock Church of God, are planning two events on Sunday to assist the Ludwiczak family.

“The family needs money for medical bills and to bury Sophia,” Stasenko said. “Whatever Samantha needs. She has two other children.”

One of the events is a benefit spaghetti dinner. Stasenko has received donations of spaghetti and sauce, but said more is needed.“So far we have 25 to 30 baskets donated to raffle off, and we are starting to get calls about baked goods,” said Stasenko, who is posting updates on her Facebook page. There also will be a Chinese auction.

Samantha Ludwiczak's aunt, Deby Kaczor of Upper Burrell, will be asking for toy and monetary gifts at a fundraiser from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday outside of the Lower Burrell Community Market in The Hillcrest Shopping Center.

A fund has been set up at PNC Bank.

“I don't have children, but I can't imagine going through what she is right now,” Kaczor said. “I'm not sure how she's going to get through Christmas. I can't imagine Samantha wanting to go buy toys for the other children.

“That's why we wanted to do this for her,” Kaczor said.

“We're just trying to get her through it.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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