Christopher Barber served nearly five years in a Pennsylvania prison in the 1990s for shaking his fussy baby boy and flinging him onto a couch so hard that he suffered catastrophic brain damage. Now Barber is behind bars again, charged with homicide, following his son's death at age 23 after he lingered in a vegetative state the rest of his life, hooked to a breathing machine and fed through a tube. Barber, 46, was arraigned Wednesday and jailed without bail. Prosecutors had him arrested after a pathologist ruled Christopher Kostenbader's death last May a homicide, saying he succumbed to "complications due to the severe head injury that occurred in 1991 at the hands of the defendant."
Barber told police nearly a quarter-century ago that his son would not stop crying while being fed on New Year's Eve in 1991 in Saylorsburg, about 25 miles north of Bethlehem. He said he shook Christopher—though he claimed the shaking "wasn't that rough"—and threw the baby on the couch. Christopher bounced at least twice, Barber told police. The infant was taken to the hospital, where doctors found "tons of damage" to the brain, bleeding behind the eyes, and rib fractures that led them to diagnose shaken baby syndrome, court documents said. Cases like this one—in which prosecutors file new, more serious charges after the victim takes a turn for the worse much later—are unusual but hardly unprecedented. In November, a Southern California jail inmate who abused a baby girl in 2005 was charged with murder over her death a decade later.