Woman guilty of 2nd degree murder in baby’s death at Eudora home day care

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Carrody M. Buchhorn, 44, of Eudora, reacts after the jury's verdict is read finding her guilty of second-degree murder on Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Douglas County District Court. Buchhorn was accused of inflicting a fatal head injury on 9-month-old Oliver Ortiz on Sept. 29, 2016, at the Eudora home day care where she worked.

Following an emotional trial and 16 hours of deliberation, a jury on Thursday convicted a Eudora woman of murdering a baby she cared for at a home day care.

Jurors found Carrody M. Buchhorn, 44, guilty of second-degree murder for unintentionally but recklessly killing 9-month-old Oliver “Ollie” Ortiz, of Eudora, in September 2016.

Following the verdict, deputies handcuffed Buchhorn, who had been on house arrest, and led her from the courtroom.

Around 40 to 50 people gathered in the courtroom daily to watch testimony during the trial. They packed the courtroom for the verdict, which numerous law enforcement officers who worked on the case also filed in to hear.

As the verdict was read, Oliver’s parents and other relatives and friends wept, embraced and gripped hands. Many of Buchhorn’s relatives and supporters also began sobbing after the verdict and as she was led away.

Buchhorn remained composed during the short hearing, and as she was being handcuffed turned to and appeared to attempt to comfort her relatives.

Judge Sally Pokorny revoked Buchhorn’s bond and scheduled her sentencing for Aug. 31. According to the district attorney’s office, Buchhorn faces 109 to 123 months, or approximately 9 to 10 years, in prison under Kansas sentencing guidelines.

Oliver became unresponsive the afternoon of Sept. 29, 2016, at Sunshine Kids Group Daycare Home, 1307 Chestnut Lane in Eudora. He was never revived. In April 2017, Buchhorn was charged with first-degree murder.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Carrody M. Buchhorn, 44, of Eudora turns to relatives as deputies handcuff her on Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Douglas County District Court, following the jury’s verdict finding her guilty of second-degree murder. Buchhorn was accused of inflicting a fatal head injury on 9-month-old Oliver “Ollie” Ortiz on Sept. 29, 2016, at the Eudora home day care where she worked.

Buchhorn is a longtime Eudora resident and mother of two boys, now grown, she testified earlier in the trial. After years as a stay-at-home mom, she’d been working at Sunshine Kids for more than two years and had worked at another Eudora day care for about two years before that.

Buchhorn’s trial began July 16.

After attorneys delivered closing arguments, jurors began deliberations about 3 p.m. Tuesday and delivered their verdict about 3:15 p.m. Thursday.

The case hinged on what caused Oliver’s death, when it occurred and who was with him at that time.

The coroner ruled Oliver’s death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head. He testified that Oliver had a fractured skull caused by an incident forceful enough — not a drop, fall or the actions of another child — to render him unresponsive right away and, without intervention, dead within minutes.

photo by: Contributed photo

Oliver Ortiz

Prosecutors Mark Simpson and C.J. Rieg said Buchhorn was the only adult with Oliver in that window of time.

Buchhorn’s defense team, Paul Morrison and Veronica Dersch, disputed the cause and timing of Oliver’s death, citing testimony by a forensic pathologist they hired to review the local autopsy findings. They argued that Oliver’s fatal head injury could have been up to a week old.

Simpson outlined the state’s theory in his closing arguments.

Simpson said when Oliver went to day care that day he was a “happy, healthy baby.” But Buchhorn, Simpson said, was “disgruntled” with her boss and job and unhappy with Oliver, who cried a lot, because he took more effort.

“And when she was alone with Oliver, it came to a head,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the evidence showed that Buchhorn inflicted blunt force trauma to Oliver’s head, interrupting electrical impulses to the brain and rendering him unresponsive. He alleged Buchhorn knew she’d hurt Oliver but instead of getting him help, she put him back in his crib and “let him die.”

In the defense’s closing arguments, Morrison painted a different picture to explain the “tragedy” of the baby’s death.

Morrison said Oliver was a “sick little boy,” with ear infections, early stages of pneumonia in his lungs and something causing him to be fussy and cry a lot, possibly the undetected skull fracture.

When Oliver died, Morrison said, authorities immediately embarked on a “quest” to convict his client, an autopsy that was “beyond sloppy” and an “inept, incomplete police investigation.”

“She’s consistently professed her innocence in this case. Why would she want to hurt Ollie Ortiz?” Morrison said.

The trial included autopsy photos of the infant, photos of his crib at the day care and a video of the autopsy being performed, though the child’s body was blurred in the video for sensitivity.

Oliver’s parents, Robert and Kaylen Ortiz, were the first witnesses to testify during the trial. Other testimony included first responders detailing their attempts to revive Oliver, and videos of Buchhorn’s multiple interviews with authorities, including at the day care immediately after Oliver’s death.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Carrody M. Buchhorn, 44, of Eudora is escorted out of the courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy on Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Douglas County District Court. A jury found Buchhorn guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of a baby she was watching at a Eudora home day care, 9-month-old Oliver Ortiz.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd

COMMENTS

Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.