Blunt force trauma killed infant at Eudora day care, prosecutors say; judge lowers bond for accused woman
The 9-month-old child killed last fall at a Eudora day care suffered multiple blunt force injuries to his head, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Carrody Buchhorn, 42, was arrested Friday and formally charged Monday in Douglas County District Court with a single felony count of first-degree murder in the case. She has pleaded not guilty.
The revelation about the cause of death came Wednesday during a hearing at which Buchhorn’s defense attorney, Paul Morrison, requested a reduction in Buchhorn’s bond — a request that was ultimately granted by Judge Sally Pokorny.
Because he believed Buchhorn was not a flight risk and he believed the prosecution’s case was weak, Morrison argued that his client’s $250,000 bond was too high.
Prosecutor C.J. Rieg argued, however, that the district attorney’s office would not have filed charges if the case was weak. In addition, the nature of the child’s fatal injuries made the original bond appropriate, she said.
On Sept. 29, 2016, Eudora police responded to the city’s Sunshine Kids Group Daycare Home at 1307 Chestnut Lane, where 9-month-old Oliver Ortiz was unresponsive. He was driven by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Rieg said the coroner, Dr. Erik Mitchell, wrote on Ortiz’s death certificate that the child died from homicide due to blunt force trauma.
More specifically, Rieg said, Ortiz suffered three injuries to his head. His spinal cord was also damaged and the injuries were so severe that he quickly died.
Had Buchhorn immediately sought medical attention Ortiz might have survived, Rieg said, though he likely would have suffered from severe disabilities as a result.
“The depravity is committing these crimes and not getting medical attention,” Rieg said with regard to Buchhorn’s first-degree murder charge.
Addressing the strength of the evidence, Morrison asserted Buchhorn was one of two day care employees who could have been associated with Ortiz’s death and she was simply “picked” by prosecutors. He called the case “circumstantial.”
Rieg argued that the case’s two most significant witnesses were Buchhorn and Ortiz, who is no longer living. Another witness was in a different part of the day care at the time, Rieg said, and the coroner wrote that the injuries could not have been caused by another child.
Morrison also argued that prosecutors requested such a high bond because they assumed Buchhorn’s family was wealthy, which is not the case, he insisted.
Ultimately Pokorny granted Morrison’s request.
Ortiz’s death was under investigation for a matter of months, Pokorny noted. And the fact that Buchhorn did not flee during the investigation is one indication that she is likely not a flight risk, she said.
Pokorny lowered Buchhorn’s bond to $100,000 and stipulated that if she is released from jail that she be held under house arrest with the aid of a GPS tracking device.
Morrison also said that he has not yet had time to examine police reports and he requested more time before a date was set for a preliminary hearing.
Pokorny scheduled Buchhorn to appear in court on May 17, when a date will be set for her next hearing.
The day care on Chestnut Lane, which was run out of a home — not Buchhorn’s — has since been closed by an emergency order from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Attempts to contact the home’s residents have been unsuccessful.
Eudora Police Detective Daniel Flick declined to comment on the details surrounding Ortiz’s death because the case is now active in district court.
Frontier Forensics, of Kansas City, Kan., the organization that handles Douglas County’s autopsies has declined to release Ortiz’s autopsy report, citing the ongoing case.
Buchhorn does not have a criminal record in Douglas County.