Brittney Billette (victim)

Brittney Billette (victim)

Next Parole Hearing : None (Max Sentence) 

 

Brittney Billette was beaten, burned, and murdered by her mother’s boyfriend

Brittany Billette
Brittney Billette
Paul Schaffner
Paul Schaffner
Inmate Name: Paul Schaffner
Inmate Number: A289612
Victim: Brittney Billette
Offenses: Involuntary Manslaughter
Min/ Max Sentence: 10 Years – 25 Years
Next Parole Hearing: Continued to November 17, 2018 (Maximum Sentence)

Case Summary

On October 16, 1993 18-month-old Brittney Billette was taken to the hospital by Paul Schaffner. Schaffner, who was Brittney’s mother’s boyfriend, claimed Brittney fell in the bathtub. After discovering burns and bruises all over Brittney’s body hospital staff called police. Brittney died from her extensive injuries a short time later. Schaffner was arrested for Brittney’s murder and took a plea deal to avoid a jury trial. Schaffner was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison.

Brittany Billette’s Story

A Mother’s Bad Decision

18-month-old Brittney Billette loved to dance, watch Barney, and play with her dolls. She always had a smile on her face and especially enjoyed sharing cookies and ice cream with her dad. Brittney had a happy life until her mother D’Ann started dating Paul Schaffner.

Brittney’s mother moved in with Schaffner shortly after breaking up with Brittney’s father Mark. Schaffner, a former marine, did not like Brittney and convinced D’Ann that they should move to Ohio to get away from Brittney’s father. Schaffner portrayed himself as a nice, respectable guy and Mark could never have known his daughter was living with a monster.

In early October 1993 D’Ann asked Mark if he had noticed Brittney bruising easily. She also told him that Brittney appeared to be afraid of Schaffner. Mark immediately became concerned and told Schaffner that he better never hear that he laid a hand on Brittney. Schaffner said he understood. Two weeks later Brittney would be dead.

An Implausible Story

Brittney Billette
Brittney Billette

On October 16, 1993 Paul Schaffner took a semi-conscious Brittney to the emergency room at St. Francis-St. George hospital in Cincinnati Ohio. Schaffner, who was watching Brittney while her mother was a work, stated that Brittney had “gotten messy” and he was giving her a bath. Schaffner claimed when he stepped away for a few minutes to get a towel he heard a loud thump and went back to find Brittney face down in the water. Schaffer said he pulled Brittney from the tub and preformed CPR. He said Brittney began vomiting and vomited on the floor, in the bathtub, and in the toilet. Schaffer said he propped Brittney up in order to clean up the vomit and she fell over sideways and hit her head again. After hitting her head a second time Schaffner said Brittney became rigid and stopped breathing. He said he was worried Brittney was choking so he put a toothbrush in her mouth to make sure she did not swallow her tongue. Schaffner stated Brittney began breathing again however her eyes would not focus. Schaffner said he “freaked out”, put a diaper on the baby, wrapped her in a blanket, and brought her to the hospital.

Hospital officials immediately realized Schaffner’s version of the events that day made no sense. As they began questioning Schaffner his story changed. He told personnel that rather than being away from Brittney for a few minutes it was actually a single minute. Officials questioned Schaffner’s story about giving Brittney a bath since neither Brittney’s diaper or hair were even slightly damp. Doctors had now determined Brittney had retinal hemorrhaging, which is a likely result of shaken baby syndrome. During the questioning hospital personnel had to chase Schaffner down in the parking lot after he fled the emergency room.

Horrific Abuse Results In Murder

Due to the severity of her injuries Brittney was transported to Children’s Hospital. Doctors realized Brittney’s injuries were far worse than they originally thought. Brittney had bruises on her face, back, pelvis, and buttons. She had multiple broken ribs and burn marks all over her back. She also had a pulmonary contusion (lung bruising), bleeding around her brain, and massive brain swelling.

The report of Doctor Robert Shapiro, director of the Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Team, was horrifying. Brittney’s body was covered with bruises. She had six fractured ribs and four broken ribs. Dr. Shapiro determined these injuries all occurred in the least 10 days. When Doctor Shapiro asked Schaffer if the broken ribs could have occurred during his resuscitation attempts Schaffner said he could not remember. Doctor Shapiro’s report stated Brittney’s death was the result of “severe child abuse”. He noted her head injuries were the result of Shaken Baby Syndrome and either resulted from being severely shaken or a severe blunt blow to the head. He said Brittney’s injuries were the equivalent of falling from a second story window onto her head and could not have been the result of a fall in the bathtub. He also said the injuries to Brittney’s ribs were the result of severe child abuse and is rarely seen from accidental injuries or CPR. According to Dr. Shapiro, “The large number of rib fractures must have resulted from a severe beating.” The doctor also said the bruises on Brittney’s spine and back were “very suspicious” based on their location and appearance. Finally Dr. Shapiro noted that injuries about Brittney’s urethra were abnormal and “sexual assault is possible” although he could not state that fact for sure.

As suspicion increased over Schaffner’s story, police decided to question Schaffner. Police asked Schaffner and D’Ann to accompany them to the apartment. D’Ann said she wanted to stay with Brittney so Schaffner went with them. Schaffner told police Brittney was playing with her food at lunch so he decided to give her a bath to clean her up. The detectives question Schaffner as to why there was no water in the tub. Schaffner claimed he made a swooping motion with his arm to pick up Brittney and unplugged the tub and picked up Brittney at the same time. Detectives also found no vomit in the bathroom although Schaffner had claimed Brittney vomited on the floor.

Police brought Schaffner back to the police station and advised him that both the apartment and medical report did not support his story. Schaffner then said he may have been away longer than a minute and that rather than getting a towel he was doing other chores while Brittney was in the bathtub. He could not specify what chores. Schaffner then said he was actually able to lift the bathtub stopper rather than accidentally pulling it up when he picked Brittney up out of the bath. He had absolutely no explanation as to why there was no vomit in the bathroom. Police asked Schaffner if he wanted to make a taped statement. He said he wanted to “think about it.” A few minutes later Schaffner said he did not wanted to put his statements on tape and requested an attorney.

Brittney Billette was pronounced dead at 9:53 AM on October 17 1993, one day after Paul Schaffner beat her. She survived long enough for her father Mark to drive from Michigan to Ohio to say goodbye. Mark Billette was by Brittney’s side when she passed away.

A Plea Deal and No Remorse

Brittney Billette with family
Brittney with her dad Mark and her grandma

Shortly after Schaffner’s arrest police discovered photos taken by Brittney’s mother a few weeks before her murder. The pictures showed bruised and battered Brittney. It was clear this was not the first beating Brittney suffered at the hands of Schaffner. A grand jury indicted Schaffner on four counts including murder, involuntary manslaughter, and child endangering which meant Schaffner was facing life in prison. The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, fearing a jury would not believe that someone could murder a child in such a horrific manner, offered Schaffner a plea deal. Schaffner, likely knowing he was facing life in prison, took the deal and pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Schaffner was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison.

Since his incarceration Schaffner has refused to take any responsibility for Brittney’s death and also has failed to take classes critical to his rehabilitation. The Ohio Parole Board documents from 2009 state, “Offender takes responsibility only for trying to save the child and doing it the wrong way causing the injuries.” Four years later in 2013 the parole records state, “Inmate has some past programming, but some of the risk relevant programs were not completed.” The documents also state, “Inmate has some insight of the crime he as committed. However is not suitable for release at this time.” According to victim’s services Schaffner has never written a letter to Brittney’s family apologizing for what he did to Brittney.

Sadly in May 2015 Schaffner was granted parole. Brittney’s family is now fighting to reverse that decision.

No Parole

Releasing Paul Schaffner at and point before serving his full 25-year sentence would be a complete injustice to Brittney Billette and demean his cruelty to her. In addition based on Schaffner’s actions since his incarceration his early release would pose an incredible risk to the community, especially to young children.

We believe to further the interests of justice and to protect the community Schaffner should be required to serve every day of his sentence. We urge the Ohio Parole Board to reverse the decision to parole Paul Schaffner and continue him until November 18, 2018 when he will have served his full 25-year sentence.