DAY-CARE DEATH Charges dropped against caregiver

By Ed Runyan


At the request of the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office, a judge has dismissed charges of murder, felonious assault and child endangering against Sarah Kaiser, 30, of Southington in the death of a 3-month-old boy at a Newton Falls day care.

Prosecutors said infor- mation that was obtained after Kaiser was indicted raised questions about whether they would be able to prove Kaiser’s guilt “by proof beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”

The charges can be re-filed at a later time.

The boy stopped breathing about 1 p.m. June 1 at the Church of God Day Care Center on West Broad Street in Newton Falls, where Kaiser worked.

He was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital, where he died June 6 of abusive head trauma. He also had suffered rib fractures.

Kaiser, of McConnell East Road, served as sole care provider for 3-month-old Jacob Culp of Newton Falls for about 90 minutes June 1, 2011, just before Jacob stopped breathing, according to a court document filed Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Kaiser also provided care to the boy periodically from April 20, 2011, to June 1, 2011, at the day care, it said.

Dr. Lisa Kohler, chief medical examiner for the Summit County Coroner’s office, said the boy suffered “old and new” head injuries, as well as older rib fractures in his back, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Dr. Kohler said the rib fractures and some of the head injuries were “weeks” old June 6, 2011, but that another head injury was inflicted “minutes to hours before he stopped breathing,” the prosecutor’s office said.

“As to the time frame for the infliction of the injury, she favored minutes over hours but could not give an outside limit for the number of hours,” prosecutors said.

Authorities interviewed the baby’s parents, JonathanSFlbP. Jr. and Jennifer M. Adams Culp, and they each passed two polygraph examinations.

Meanwhile, Kaiser failed a polygraph examination.

In May, Judge Peter Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ruled that Atty. Alan Matavich of the Trumbull County Public Defender’s Office could hire renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht of Pittsburgh to review the medical evidence in the case and provide expert testimony at trial.

The prosecutor’s office also hired an expert witness, Dr. Janice Ophoven.

Neither Drs. Wecht nor Ophoven “could say to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that any injury was inflicted on the baby on June 1, 2011,” and both said the head injury the baby suffered prior to June 1 could have caused him to suffer bleeding inside his skull without further trauma to his head June 1.

Matavich said he thinks the state “did the right thing” by dropping charges against Kaiser.

Prosecutors said they learned after Kaiser was indicted that Dr. Kohler had obtained a second opinion from another forensic pathologist before rendering her opinion on the cause and manner of the baby’s death.

The other forensic pathologist indicated in emails that she had doubts about whether the case would be “prosecutable.”

Kaiser has been free on bond since just a few days after her indictment in December 2011.

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