Richter to get new trial in ‘shaken baby’ case

Trial date to be set later

Shelley Richter will get a new trial.

Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce said Thursday morning Richter was entitled to the new trial because a November 2010 sheriff’s report of a new hotline call investigation — involving the same child Richter was charged with abusing — never was provided to the prosecution or defense.

“I do not understand how the sheriff’s office did not forward this report,” Joyce said. “This was a high-profile case and the deputy investigating this knew that there was an active case.”

Cole County Sheriff Greg White declined to comment Thursday, noting the case still was in the courts.

Five weeks ago, a Cole County jury found Richter guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, for a 2010 accident in her Taos home day care center.

Lane Schaefer, then 7 months old, received serious head injuries and permanent disabilities.

The new trial will be only on the endangering charge, since the jury found Richter not guilty of felony child abuse, a more serious charge.

Richter had argued during the trial that she dropped the baby as she was carrying him and tripped over a toddler who had walked behind her.

She said she dropped Lane as she fell.

As he was being treated at University Hospital for his serious head injuries, several doctors determined those injuries could have been caused only by violent shaking.

But Richter’s attorney, Shane Farrow, hired a former medical examiner from Minnesota, who testified the boy’s injuries more likely occurred because his head hit a linoleum-covered concrete floor.

Farrow asked for the new trial two weeks ago, arguing in a four-page motion that he never had been given a Nov. 12, 2010, sheriff’s investigation report of a call made to the state’s Child Abuse Hotline.

In that report, Cole County Detective Ryan Petty said the state had received a new report that Lane Schaefer had “new bleeding on the right side of his brain.”

Petty also wrote that Dr. Norman Scott Litofsky told him the new bleeding “was most likely from new trauma and it might be as slight as Lane falling and hitting his head on his bed.”

However, Dr. Nitin Patel, another doctor on Schaefer’s case, thought the new bleeding was “from weakened blood vessels from the original injury,” Petty reported.

The detective closed the new investigation, and his report was marked “copy to defense.” But, Farrow said, he didn’t get that report or a copy of the hotline call until “after the trial.”

Farrow’s trial defense had included evidence that the baby “had suffered previous injuries to his brain, that made him more susceptible to brain injury” on the day of the accident.

Litofsky’s statement would have supported his trial argument at the trial, Farrow said, and not having the information “devastated our case.”

Assistant Cole County Prosecutor Cheryl Nield told Joyce that Farrow had been given all the medical evidence he needed in March 2011 — long before the trial.

Nield’s written response to Farrow’s motion was sealed by court order because “it’s protected health information,” Nield reminded Joyce during Thursday’s hearing.

“The bottom line on this is,” Nield said, “there’s really no new information here. ... That information was there two years before the trial.”

Joyce apologized to the Schaefer family, that they will “have to go through this again. But, in the matter of justice, I have to order a new trial.”

The lawyers and judge will set the date for the new trial later.

Earlier coverage:

Shelley Richter will get a new trial.

Five weeks ago, a Cole County jury found Richter guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, for the Aug. 19, 2010, accident in her home day care center that left a 7 month-old boy with serious head injuries.

But the jury found Richter not guilty of the more serious charge, felony child abuse.

Richter had argued that she dropped the boy as she was falling backwards, after tripping over a toddler who had walked behind her.

Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce apologized to the baby’s family, that they will have to go through another trial.

But, she said, Richter was entitled to the new trial because a November 2010 sheriff’s report of a new hotline call investigation never was provided to the prosecution or defense.

“I do not understand how the sheriff’s office did not forward this report,” Joyce said.

Cole County Assistant Prosecutor Cheryl Nield argued the medical information included in the sheriff’s report also was included in the medical reports from the University of Missouri-Columbia Hospital that were given to the defense in March 2011.

But Richter’s lawyer, Shane Farrow, argued the information in those records did not indicate the follow-up investigation, and he would have handled Richter’s case differently with the additional report.

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