The 1994 Child Abuse Murder of Toddler Byron Cummins

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Byron Cummins died by asphyxiation after a person known to him forced a washcloth in his mouth to silence his cries. That someone was one of three people in the child’s home that night. While police believed it was the boyfriend of Byron’s mother, a grand jury could not determine who killed the child; therefore, nobody served any time in prison for his murder.  

According to the National Children’s Alliance, “more than 600,000 children are abused in the United States each year. Children up to a year old are 15% of all victims, and more than a quarter (28%) of child maltreatment victims are no more than 2 years old.” Several risk factors include domestic violence, family stress, and single parenting.

Byron was a month shy of turning two when he lost his life to violence in a pathetic case of a mother not protecting her son.

The Killing of Byron Cummins

Sandra Yarrington was a single teenage mother from Colona, Illinois, a small community within the Quad Cities metropolitan area. By 1994, she had given birth to two children: Holli Yarrington in October 1991 and Byron in January 1993.

At only 19 and barely an adult, Sandra was likely unprepared to handle such an immense responsibility as raising children and certainly lacked maturity. It is no wonder she quickly involved herself with another man. 

Sandra began dating Shawn McNew, who was four years older and nothing but trouble. While no information is available regarding their relationship, Shawn was likely a controlling and dominant man. 

Sandra and Shawn, 23, took the kids and moved to Deltona, Florida, in early December 1994. Deltona is in Volusia County, about 30 miles northeast of Orlando.  Shawn’s family, including his cousin Ian Soliz, 20, also lived in Deltona then. 

On December 23, 1994, Sandra, Shawn, and Ian spent the evening drinking alcohol at Shawn and Sandra’s home, 1432 Hollyhock Street, with the children present. 

Shawn and Sandra went shopping the following day, Christmas Eve, leaving Ian to watch the kids alone. 

At 1:50 p.m., he found Byron unresponsive in his crib after going into the bedroom to wake the children for breakfast. He claimed he attempted CPR because Bryon was not breathing and that the toddler was already blue and cold to the touch. Ian called 9-1-1, but it was too late. Byron was dead.


Paramedics arrived at the residence at 2 p.m. They discovered a washcloth had been twisted corkscrewlike into Byron’s mouth and a plastic red ponytail holder lodged in his upper esophagus. 

Florida Department of Law Enforcement technicians arrived at the scene. They found Bryon’s blood on blankets, pillows, washcloths, the ponytail holder, the carpet, and a light switch on the wall adjacent to the bedroom door. (Hager-Van Dyke, 1997)

A Volusia County medical examiner discovered bruises on Byron’s arms, back, head, legs, and wrists and determined the child died from “asphyxiation by another.”

Police interviewed the three adults in the home. Sandra said that Shawn entered the children’s room once while they were drinking because Holli and Byron would not settle down and sleep. She claimed Shawn did not hit either child. Neither Sandra nor Shawn could explain what caused Byron’s death.  (Hager-Van Dyke, 1996)

Holli, then 3, told investigators that she saw Shawn shove the washcloth into her brother’s mouth and tape it shut to stop him from crying.

On December 28, 1994, authorities administered polygraph tests to Ian and Sandra, and they both passed. When Shawn heard the results, he agreed to talk to investigators, “but I want to smoke a cigarette and speak to my mother,” he said.

Anna McNew arrived at the police department and said her son wanted an attorney. Police could no longer question him until his lawyer arrived. However, he never gave his statement.

Florida’s child welfare service took Holli into custody, stating that Sandra “caused or allowed Holli’s sibling, Byron Cummins, to be seriously shaken and suffocated to death.” Sandra’s parents, Richard and Linda Yarrington of Colona, Illinois, were given legal guardianship of the girl in May 1995.

Judicial System Fails Byron Cummins

A Volusia County 15-member grand jury convened in July 1996 and found that Byron’s death was a homicide but could not determine who killed the child.

Holli, then 4, had testified and answered all questions asked of her in about 40 minutes. Linda also testified.

According to a spokesman, “The grand jury’s language was that there was a homicide committed, but at this time, the information from the child, the investigator, and the medical examiner isn’t strong enough” for a conviction.

Police never charged any of the three adults with a crime. 

Three years after Byron’s death, Volusia County sheriff’s investigator Derrick Clark asked the State Attorney’s Office to hire a linguist to interview Holli to “review what’s been done and see what can be done to get her to tell exactly what happened,” said Clark. However, what came from that is unknown.

2004 Investigation

The Orlando Sentinel reported that investigators began re-interviewing those involved with Bryon’s case in 2004. At the time of the article’s publication, investigators had been told that Holli had a “habit of putting toys inside her brother’s mouth but it is unclear whether police ever questioned Holli as a suspect.” (Ailworth, 2004)

Suspect? Really? 🤦

Be that as it may, it is doubtful that the little girl would have twisted the washcloth like a corkscrew and shoved it hard into Byron’s mouth. Furthermore, that preposterous theory does not explain all of Byron’s blood found in the bedroom. 

The investigation fizzled, and Byron’s murder remains unsolved.


Sandra and Shawn eventually ended their relationship. Sandra now works as a travel nurse and has resided in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for at least 20 years. Holli is now in her 30s, married with one child, and resides in Wisconsin.

Shawn was convicted in 2012 for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. He served seven years out of a 9-year sentence. It seems that luck is on his side regarding a conviction. After he and Sandra broke up, Shawn moved to New York, where he resides today.

Ian Soliz now lives in Moline, Illinois.

Linda Yarrington is still alive, as far as I can tell. She spent several years following Byron’s death, clipping newspaper articles about the deaths of other young children and writing letters imploring investigators to find Byron’s killer. In 1997, Linda had a stroke that weakened her advocacy for the arrest of Byron’s killer. (Ailworth) 

TCD’s Thoughts

The following is strictly the opinion of this author.

Despite only a few sources available on Byron’s case, I wanted to cover it because it angered me that his killer(s) got away with killing him. I hate cases like this, though. 😟

I want to point out Byron’s picture at the top of this page. That image is attached to Byron’s case summary on the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department’s website. However, a 90s newspaper stated that that child is Holli. Here’s the picture. The child on the right is younger, making me think he is Byron. 

Holli Yarrington and Byron Cummins

I could not find any pictures of Shawn McNew. You can see Sandra’s face by clicking the link attached to her name at the beginning of the article. If by chance, she takes her public pictures down, I will upload a screenshot. She may or may not see this post.

Now, about this case.

It’s obvious who the guilty party is in Bryon’s MURDER. But I don’t believe Shawn acted alone, and it angers me that none of those three served any time in prison for it. You can bet your a$$ Sandra and Ian were more involved. I don’t give a shit that they passed lie detector tests. So what? 

Byron was Sandra’s son, and she should have fought hard for a conviction if she had not been involved. As far as I can tell, she never did and does not publicly advocate for justice today.

I have a few issues with Ian and Sandra’s innocence.

  1. Despite Byron being Sandra’s son, she never checked on her children that night—Shawn allegedly did—or the following day. I find that strange. What did she do instead? She supposedly went shopping with Shawn. However, I don’t believe they did.
  2. Nobody allegedly checked on the children until 1:50 p.m. on Christmas Eve, when Ian claimed he went to wake them for breakfast. At 1:50 p.m.?? WTF? Do you know many toddlers who sleep that late? Did he hurt Byron?
  3. Sandra’s statement to the police is odd but it makes sense if Ian was the assailant. She said Shawn went into the children’s room only once because the kids would not go to sleep and claimed he did not hit either child. But neither she nor Shawn could explain what caused Byron’s death or all the blood in the room. Maybe the “Not me” ghost was responsible. IYKYK. 😉 Nevertheless, I believe she knew what happened to her child from the get-go.
  4. Ian and Sandra quickly threw Shawn under the bus, saying that Shawn was the last to enter the kids’ bedroom. But we know that isn’t true; Ian was the last to enter. As soon as Shawn realized they f*cked him, he lawyered up. I’m not saying he did not kill Byron, but they had more of a hand than they said. At the very least, Sandra stood by and did nothing while her child was being abused.

I can understand the grand jury’s stance on who did or did not kill Byron. Yes, one of the three killed Byron, but no evidence pointed to a specific person, unfortunately.

Police found a lot of blood in that room (on blankets, pillows, washcloths, the ponytail holder, the carpet, and the light switch) and Bryon had bruises all over his body. This poor kid suffered greatly before he died. I can only hope those involved suffer silently until the day they die.


Ailworth, Erin. “A Decade Later, Toddler Slaying Goes Unsolved.” The Orlando Sentinel, December 3, 2004. 

Hager-Van Dyke, Charlene. “2-Year-Old’s Death Still a Mystery.” The Orlando Sentinel, July 17, 1996. 

Hager-Van Dyke, Charlene. “Girl, 6, May Know Who Killed Brother.” The Orlando Sentinel, December 23, 1997.

Hager-Van Dyke, Charlene. “Grandparents Want to See an Arrest in Baby’s Death.” The Orlando Sentinel, October 4, 1998. 

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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