WESLEY CHAPEL — Jeffrey Spohn and his wife had their adopted daughters home only a few months when tragedy struck in March 2007.
Spohn, authorities said, was alone with the girls in their Seven Oaks house when the 18-month-old, Ryanne, was rushed to the hospital with bleeding in her brain. She later died.
Authorities investigated the death, but it wasn't until last week — more than a year and a half after the girl's death — that a grand jury handed up a first-degree murder indictment.
Spohn's attorney, Patrick Calcutt of St. Petersburg, said Spohn was arrested last week in Marion County, where he and his wife moved to be near family. He was booked into the Pasco County jail without bail Monday.
"He's really just as baffled today as he was then as to exactly why she fell and why she died," Calcutt said.
"My understanding is … he was trying himself to get ready, get dressed and showered. His wife was not there," Calcutt added. "All he saw was one of them appeared to fall backward from the gate."
Spohn, 33, grew up in Ocala, Calcutt said, and served in the Navy. He and his wife, Heather, went through rigorous background checks to be able to adopt their children, who were sisters.
Only when the adoption was complete, Calcutt said, did the couple discover the children's severe medical problems, including fainting spells and neurological problems that weren't fully diagnosed.
"They were in pretty serious health-related circumstances when they were brought back to the United States," Calcutt said.
After Ryanne died, authorities moved to have the other girl, Macie, removed from her parents' home. A judge put her in the care of relatives. Calcutt would not say where Macie, 4, is now, only that she hasn't been returned to her parents.
He said Spohn, who has no prior criminal record, plans to plead not guilty to the charge.
"He doesn't want to hide," Calcutt said. "He wants to get to the bottom of what happened."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.