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Mother in HIV case pleads for privacy

Jennfier
Jennifer: "I am here as a mother to plead with you to respect my son's privacy."  

Father accused of giving boy virus to avoid child support

In this story:

April 24, 1998
Web posted at: 9:13 p.m. EDT (0113 GMT)

ST. CHARLES, Missouri (CNN) -- The mother of a 7-year-old boy allegedly injected with the AIDS virus by his father made an emotional plea for privacy Friday, saying her son is trying to live as normally as possible for whatever time he has left.

"I plead with you to respect the privacy and the dignity of my son and my family," said the woman, who identified herself only as Jennifer, at a press conference. "He has been through so much already. My main concern is for his well-being and happiness, and that my children are not victimized any further by this incident."

Jennifer also offered her thanks for the outpouring of support she has received since her son's plight became public.

"I would like to take this chance to just express my sincere gratitude to all the people -- literally around the world -- for your kind thoughts, gestures of love, prayers and concern for my son," she said.

Part of the press conference
video icon 1.57MB/27 sec./240x180
QuickTime movie
The boy's mother, Jennifer, describes her son's struggle with the disease
icon 730KB/70 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Brian Stewart, 31, the boy's biological father, is accused of injecting him with HIV when he was 11 months old in an effort to avoid paying child support. Stewart entered a not guilty plea Thursday to charges of first-degree assault, which prosecutors say will be upgraded to murder if his son dies. Stewart is still in jail, with bail set at $500,000.

Boy, near death 2 years ago, has improved

Jennifer's son, born in 1991, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1996. At the time, Jennifer said, he was near death. His immune system was destroyed, he was suffering from incurable liver and spleen disorders, his digestive system had shut down, and he had a chronic fever of 105 degrees.

Jennifer said her son's condition has improved since his diagnosis and that "he's feeling much better and is now finally able to enjoy more of his childhood." She said his immune system has bounced back somewhat, although it is still only about half as strong as that of a typical healthy person.

However, some of the medication he was given has left him with a permanent hearing impairment, and he still takes 10 different medications daily, some through a permanent tube in his abdomen, Jennifer said.

"Through the prayers and those involved in his treatment, he has managed to remain alive and is showing remarkable improvement," she said. "However, due to the complications associated with this disease, ... [it] will always be a daily struggle to live."

"We live daily with the realization that he will die of this disease or the complications that are related to this," she said. "He is now trying to live the life of an ordinary 7- year-old child. He has been denied this for most of his short life. He attends school as much as his health allows him to do."

Prosecutor: Case circumstantial

St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Braun said much of the case against Stewart is built on circumstantial evidence, although there is some "direct evidence."

Stewart
Stewart  

He said two witnesses will testify about conversations they had with Stewart that support the charge. One allegedly heard Stewart make a comment "to the effect of 'You don't have to worry about me paying child support because the child won't live long enough,'" Braun said.

Stewart worked as a hospital blood technician. The boy was allegedly injected with HIV-infected blood in February 1992 at a hospital in St. Charles, where he was being treated for a respiratory problem.

On the day the injection allegedly took place, Stewart, who did not work at that hospital, was seen carrying a type of lab coat that would have been out of season, Braun said.

"The inference that we would have is that he had blood in there, and if somebody looked in the pocket of the coat, he would say, 'Oh, I had that left over from my other job' or 'I forgot to take that out,'" Braun said.

Father's lawyer: He's being tried in media

But Stewart's court-appointed attorney, Joe Murphy, accused prosecutors of outrageous conduct and said his client was being tried and convicted in the media.

"My client has maintained all along that he is innocent," Murphy said. "And I believe him."

At her press conference, Jennifer declined to answer any questions or discuss the facts of the criminal case.

"I firmly believe that the court of law should be where this is all addressed, and it will be taken care of there," she said.

 
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