A Mother On Trial

Prosecution Says That Kathy Bush Was To Blame

This past July, Kathy Bush's trial began. Prosecutors said that she had willfully tortured her daughter and distorted her medical history. She was also charged with fraudulently obtaining medical services.

The prosecution said that Kathy Bush repeatedly poisoned Jennifer with a drug, causing serious side effects. Those side effects, they contended, looked like symptoms of real illness - leading doctors to perform all those tests and surgeries on Jennifer.

Cases of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy are difficult to prove. "Getting good smoking gun evidence is very, very hard," says Beatrice Crofts Yorker, an expert on the syndrome.

The key is separating the parent from the child, to see if the child then gets better, she says.

This is what happened when Jennifer went to Cincinnati. She improved dramatically. Kathy Bush explained this by saying her daughter had been getting better anyway.

Kathy Bush treats her daughter in 1996, before the girl was taken away from her.
Prosecutors based their case on the accounts of some nurses and doctors who had treated Jennifer. The nurses at Coral Springs Medical Center began taking care of Jennifer when she was an infant. Over time, they noticed that she seemed to get worse when her mother visited.

In 1990 Jennifer was 3 years old when one particular incident alarmed nurse Donna Santacroce. She told the jury that she saw Kathy Bush forcing something down her daughter's throat.

Soon after, Jennifer vomited twice. One time she vomited Tegretol, a potent anti-seizure medication. Jennifer had already been taken off that drug by her doctor.

Even though Jennifer was then off the drug, records show she continued to have toxic levels of it in her system. The hospital staff confronted the Bushes with their concerns, and the Tegretol levels suddenly dropped.

This site contains a compilation of Web pages with info on Munchausen Syndrome.

At the trial, the prosecution argued that Kathy Bush repeatedly poisoned Jennifer with the drug, causing serious side effects. Those side effects, they contended, looked like symptoms of real illness, leading doctors to perform numerous tests and surgeries.

But defense attorney Robert Buschel blamed the doctors, not Kathy Bush. It was they, not her, who did all the surgeries, he pointed out. Jason Bush, 20, now a Marine stationed in California, also testified for is mother, saying that she would not hurt his sister Jennifer.

Dr. Mario Tano also testified for the defense, saying that he didn't think so many medical tests could be faked. But the prosecution says doctors - including Dr. Tano - were baffled by Jennifer's repeated symptoms.

On the stand, the prosecutor got Dr. Tano to admit that it was "possible" that Jennifer's condition could have been caused by someone tampering with her.

Jason Bush says that his family has been split apart by the allegations against his mother.

As the trial ended, the defense said that no one ever saw Kathy Bush do anything to hurt Jennifer. The prosecution concluded, however, by arguing that Kathy Bush was the only explanation for Jennifer's medical problems.

"It's all induced; it's all fabricated," said prosecutor Bob Nichols. "There was no reason for this girl to suffer through her life like this. I'm asking that you to hold Kathy Bush accountable for her own actions."

On Oct. 6, the trial finished. After eight hours of deliberation, the jury convicted her of child abuse and fraud. When the verdict was announced, Matthew Bush burst into tears. Craig Bush defended his wife and said he still thought she was innocent.

Afterward one juror said that the jury had found the evidence "overwhelming."

Kathy Bush is now free on $50,000 bail. She faces a sentence that could range from probation to 45 years in prison. She will be sentenced in January, and her attorney has asked the judge for a new trial, on the grounds that the jury considered evidence that the judge had previously deemed inadmissable.

Find out more about The Hackensack Medical Center, where Dan Rather anchored a 48 Hours broadcast.

According to prosecutors, Jennifer is doing very well. "She's very happy where she is," says Nichols. "She's not had anything more than a sniffle and a cold since she was separated from her mom. The one thing that screams out about her when you meet her now is that she just celebrates her health."

As for Craig Bush - he still hopes that his daughter will come home some day. "There might be a few things...she might want to change because she's gotten older now. Getting in to that near teen age, you know, probably looking at boys by now. I don't know. I wish I did know."

To review how the case evolved, read "48 Hous: A Mother Accused."

Produced by David Kohn;