The jury deliberated for three hours before finding Salli D. Schultz, 43, of North Chisago Lakes Township, not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
A Chisago County woman has been acquitted in the death of an infant at her unlicensed home day care early last year, in a case that her attorney said was a "rush to judgment."
After a trial that began last week, jurors took less than three hours to decide that Salli D. Schultz, 43, of North Chisago Lakes Township, was not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the January 2011 death of 8-month-old Brooke Kowarsch, of Lindstrom.
"To me it was a rush to judgment by the police, the BCA [state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] and the medical examiner saying it was a homicide," defense attorney Earl Gray said Friday, after Schultz's acquittal Thursday evening.
"I think we established quite convincingly that the child died of natural causes," he added. "Our doctors said she had blood clotting in the cerebral veins, [and the prosecution] claimed it was a traumatic brain injury, non-accidental."
The lead prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General William Klumpp, declined to comment on the verdict. The Minnesota attorney general's office often leads in complicated cases in smaller communities.
Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter said at the time the charges were filed last July that this was "a difficult case, but we feel we are on solid ground on the medical evidence that we feel will be borne out at trial." Several messages left for Reiter Friday were not returned.
Gray noted that Schultz must now deal with restoring her reputation and figure out how to earn a living and pay her legal bills.
"I can't imagine the bills for [the defense] experts," Gray said, adding that he called on medical experts from as far away as California and Illinois. "They are expensive, that's for sure."
Attempts to reach Schultz on Friday were unsuccessful.
The verdict falls in line with what state statistics show: Day-care providers are rarely found to inflict fatal or near-fatal injuries to children. According to a state Department of Human Services report released in April 2011, of 71 inflicted injuries to Minnesota children for the 2005-09 period, day-care providers were cited as the offender in six instances.
Authorities had alleged in the criminal complaint filed last July that Brooke suffered a head injury Jan. 19, 2011, at Schultz's home. Her health continued to worsen, and the family decided three days later to remove her from life support at Children's Hospital of St. Paul.
The complaint did not explain how Brooke's injury occurred, and there were no witnesses to it. Schultz was the only adult present at the time. There were five children under her care at the time. Brooke had been in her care for about a month.
Schultz had received warnings from the county about operating her day care without a license. She told investigators she had been watching kids for 20 years.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482