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URBANA — The parents of a Champaign boy who was severely brain-damaged five years ago, purportedly at the hands of his babysitter, are asking the woman they believe hurt him to pay for his ongoing care.

Attorneys for Daniel and Corinne Kaeding filed a civil suit Wednesday in Champaign County Circuit Court against Debbie May, 59, of Champaign on behalf of their now-5-year-old son Rowen Kaeding.

May was criminally charged in November 2014 with aggravated battery to a child for injuries she allegedly inflicted on Rowen in October and November of that year.

After five years of legal machinations, the case concluded Friday, when Judge Tom Difanis sentenced May to 31 / 2 years in prison for a reduced charge of aggravated battery.

May entered an Alford plea to that charge in April, which allowed her to maintain her innocence while admitting that the state had enough evidence to convict her.

The civil suit was filed before she could even be transferred to the women's prison to begin serving her sentence. She remained in the Champaign County Jail n Wednesday.

It alleges that Rowen suffered traumatic brain injuries when, on Oct. 25, 2014, and again on Nov. 5, 2014, May "negligently shook" him. It alleges that even though she saw Rowen was in "serious physical distress" on Nov. 5, she did not seek medical help for him and waited more than two hours to contact his parents.

The suit alleges that May was negligent in that she was caring for three other infants in addition to Rowen but was not licensed as a day care provider with the state of Illinois as required under the Child Care Act of 1969.

While not specifying a dollar amount, the suit seeks damages "in excess of the jurisdictional limits for the Law Division, plus costs and for any other relief as is just and proper."

At May's sentencing hearing, the Kaedings testified in detail about their son's disabilities and ongoing needs. Those include functional blindness, cerebral palsy that makes it difficult for him to control his body movements, infantile spasms, involuntary muscle contractions, the inability to drink, and a vocabulary of about 20 words for a child who should have more than 2,000.

Although he can walk, Rowen frequently has leg pain so he needs a stroller and has a feeding tube for drinking.

His father said that Rowen is not toilet-trained and cannot perform any self-help tasks such as dressing, brushing teeth, combing hair or feeding himself.

The suit was filed by James Spiros and Matthew Duco of Spiros Law.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).