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Cole County daycare owner found guilty

By Evan Millward, Weekend Anchor/Reporter, evanm@kmiz.com
Published On: Mar 14 2013 10:39:18 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 14 2013 11:51:18 AM CDT
Shelley Richter mugshot

Shelley Richter's 2010 mugshot

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -

***UPDATE WEDNESDAY 6:56 P.M.***

After six hours of deliberations, the jury ruled Shelley Richter guilty of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree. 

The court found Richter not guilty on the other child abuse charge. 

***UPDATE 12:50 P.M.*** 

The case went to the jury just before noon on Wednesday. 

In closing arguments, the prosecution declared that the case was not about why Richter may have shaken or hit Lane Schaefer, but if her negligence caused and worsened serious injuries that have led to years of therapy and disability. 

The defense argued that testimony by the state doctors was inconsistent in whether or not Schaefer's injuries were caused by abuse or were previous injuries exacerbated by a long, hard fall. Attorney Shane Farrow also challenged the jurors to reconcile why Richter admits to dropping the child, instead of lying about the incident, if she were guilty.

Stay with ABC 17 News on air and on abc17news.com for updates throughout the afternoon.

***ORIGINAL STORY***

A Mid-Missouri daycare owner accused of a shaking a child took the stand on Wednesday.

Shelley Richter is charged in Cole County with child abuse and neglect. Prosecutors say she shook then-7 month-old Lane Schaefer in 2010, but she claims she tripped while she was holding him. The toddler is currently blind and requires frequent therapy.

During her testimony, Richter denied ever shaking or hitting Schaefer. She said she fell backwards and dropped him. Richter's testimony was emotional, with tears from both sides of the courtroom. Richter also broke down on the stand when asked to describe how she allegedly fell and what Schaefer was like in the minutes after the incident.

Richter told defense attorney Shane Farrow she still feels "awful" about the incident. Prosecutors pushed her on why she did not call 911 immediately, to which she responded that she was "panicked."

After Richter testified, neighbor and former Highway Patrol trooper Dawn Wilde took the stand. She was working from home on August 19, 2010 and was Richter's first call for help. Wilde said Richter was so distraught she had to talk to 911 operators and Schaefer's mother, Jessica, herself.

Dr. John Plunkett, of Minnesota, also testified for the defense. He claimed the baby's injuries were consistent with a fall from 3-5 feet, despite evidence from the prosecution claiming the exact opposite. Plunkett told jurors that the physics of shaking a 7 month-old baby would not likely create the injuries Schaefer sustained.

"You cannot create the force or acceleration to cause [those injuries] by shaking," he said. "You can't do it, or at least there's no evidence you can do it."

If she is found guilty, Richter faces up to 22 years in prison.

The case is expected to reach the jury by Wednesday afternoon.

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