Infant Amanda was 5 weeks old when her father “violently beat her,” leaving her critically injured until her death at age 22 last year, said Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.
An autopsy performed by the state medical examiner’s office showed her manner of death was homicide, caused by complications of blunt force head injury.
Cold Case Detective Sgt. Dan Goodwin and Detective Steve Kohler questioned a number of doctors and other witnesses before presenting the case to the district attorney’s office. Detective Kohler charged biological father, Anthony Shannon Lane, with first-degree murder of Amanda on Monday.
Lane was convicted of aggravated child abuse of Amanda in 1992 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. After his release, he was charged and convicted of aggravated child abuse of a second child, her half-brother Ryan. He is serving a 25-year sentence on the second conviction at Hardeman County Correctional Facility.
Sgt. Goodwin and Detective Kohler charged Lane, 41, with first-degree murder in Amanda’s death Monday. Lane is being held in Rutherford County Adult Detention Center while awaiting a court hearing July 18.
“As a law enforcement officer and the father of two young children, it’s difficult for me to understand why anyone would want to hurt an innocent infant,” Arnold said. “We will work with the district attorney’s office in the prosecution of this case for justice for Amanda.”
Amanda’s case was originally investigated in 1991 by Sheriff’s Detectives Chuck Thomas and J.D. Driver, resulting in the conviction of Lane and Amanda’s biological mother, Stephanie Pinson, who was convicted for accessory after the fact of child abuse. She was sentenced to two years in jail.
Rutherford County foster parent Nancy Woodall-Holmes of La Vergne began caring for Amanda when she was three months old.
“She could only do less than a newborn baby,” Woodall-Holmes remembered. “She couldn’t suck or swallow. She was blind and non-verbal, fed through a tube in the stomach.”
Woodall-Holmes, who has cared for special needs children for 32 years, adopted Amanda who required four injections daily for a diabetic condition and had seizures. She had cerebral palsy.
“The only movement she had was her seizures,” Woodall-Holmes said, adding she couldn’t sit up, crawl, roll over, scratch or hold a toy. “She stayed in the same bed for 22 years.”
Woodall-Holmes and her adult children, Michelle Durham, Hannah Woodall and Matthew Woodall, cared for Amanda.
She described Amanda as “pure joy. She woke up with a smile. She went to sleep with a smile. She laughed all day, every day. She was so happy.”
Amanda recognized Woodall-Holmes’ voice and responded to her.
“Her life was such a gift to me,” the mother said. “Everybody who crossed her path walked away a different person.”
Ironically, Full Circle therapy asked Woodall-Holmes if other special needs children could use her swimming pool. That’s where Amanda first met her half-brother Ryan, who was also injured by Lane, their biological father.
“She and Ryan had their wheelchairs next to each other and their hands touched,” Woodall-Holmes remembered. “It was like they made a connection with each other.”
Ryan had therapy the day Amanda was rushed to the hospital the last time. Ryan joined Woodall-Holmes’ family and Amanda’s biological mother, half-brother and half-sister when Amanda died.
Woodall-Holmes’ voice cracked with emotion Tuesday when she talked about Amanda.
“I want Amanda’s death to mean something,” Woodall-Holmes’ said. “I want her life to mean something. I know it will be a controversial issue. Amanda had a life sentence. Her brother (Ryan) had a life sentence. Her death ended in a death sentence. I don’t think we should accept anything less than that for him (Lane).”
Arnold said the Sheriff’s Office is committed to remembering the victims and solving the cold cases.
“We still pursue cold cases so that abusers who commit these terrible crimes will be brought to justice,” Arnold said.
Woodall-Holmes believes Lane’s case will make a “huge impact” on child abusers in Tennessee. The abuser may get a short sentence originally.
“But when the victim dies, then real justice will happen,” Woodall-Holmes said. “It may take 23 years but justice will be served. That’s the message I want to get out there. I want Amanda’s life and death to speak volumes for the victims in Tennessee and for the abusers who only get a slap on the wrist.”