Rare Disease Mimics Child Abuse and Tears Family Apart

(ABC)   William “Dave” O’Shell, distraught over charges of child abuse that were being leveled against him, snapped on June 30, 2008, killing his wife, Tiffany O’Shell, in their Henderson, Colo., home before taking his own life.

Just a few weeks earlier, their green-eyed, 3-month-old daughter, Alyssa, had been placed in a foster home because x-rays revealed 11 broken bones and doctors assumed that she had been beaten.

But they were wrong.

On the same day as the murder-suicide, a doctor at Colorado Children’s Hospital suspected something else and was later proved right: Alyssa had a rare genetic disorder that caused her bones to fracture — one that authorities had confused for abuse.

Alyssa died of spinal muscular atrophy on Oct. 28, 2008, but the tragedy has rippled through a family and an aggressive social services system that is meant to protect children.

Now, four years later after all lawsuits have been unsuccessful, Alyssa’s maternal grandparents are saying the tragedy could have been averted.

“We were looking for action. We could care less about the money,” said Paul Cuin, Tiffany O’Shell’s adoptive father. “We wanted someone to sit up and say, ‘This is wrong and we need to change things.'”

Cuin said there were no avenues for the O’Shells, both respected police officers, to plead their innocence.

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