Affidavit: Woman accused of killing infant at Eudora day care was only person with access to the child
After Oliver Ortiz was laid down for a nap at his day care in late September 2016, Carrody Buchhorn, a worker at the day care, was the only person with access to the 9-month-old, she told police, according to the recently released arrest affidavit in the case.
Ortiz died later that day after his skull was fractured down to his spinal cord, one doctor told police, according to the affidavit filed in Douglas County District Court. The injury reportedly killed him within minutes.
Buchhorn, 42, was arrested April 14 and now faces a single felony count of first-degree murder. She pleaded not guilty, and she was released from the Douglas County Jail on Friday after posting a $100,000 bond.
An arrest affidavit is a sworn document that explains law enforcement’s reasons for making an arrest; the allegations therein still must be proved in court.
Emergency responders were dispatched to Eudora’s Sunshine Kids Group Daycare Home at 1307 Chestnut Lane on Sept. 29, 2016, when Ortiz was reportedly unresponsive.
Eudora Fire Chief Ken Keiter was first on the scene and found Buchhorn performing CPR on Ortiz. The baby was driven by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
In a Sept. 30 interview with Eudora Police Detective Daniel Flick, Buchhorn said that aside from lunchtime she was Ortiz’s sole caretaker throughout the day, the affidavit says. The day care’s owner, Gina Brunton, fed Ortiz from a bottle around noon.
Buchhorn told Flick she had worked at the day care, which was run out of Brunton’s basement, for about two years, the affidavit says. On the day in question, Ortiz had been in a good mood, which was unusual because he was “always crying,” she said.
During the investigation text messages found on Buchhorn’s phone discussed Ortiz “crying all the time” and Brunton’s frequent absence at the day care during business hours, the affidavit says.
After lunch, Brunton laid Ortiz down to sleep and went upstairs, Buchhorn told Flick, according to the affidavit; then, around 2 p.m. Buchhorn said she checked on Ortiz and rubbed his back until he fell asleep. She returned around 3:10 p.m. and found him on his back, his right arm under his body and his left arm to his side.
Disregarding the position, Buchhorn told Flick she picked Ortiz up and carried him toward Brunton, sort of laughing in disbelief because he was not waking up, the affidavit says.
Brunton immediately noticed something was wrong and screamed, Buchhorn told Flick. Ortiz’s lips were blue and he was unresponsive. Buchhorn began CPR and told Brunton to call 911, the affidavit says.
Brunton corroborated much of Buchhorn’s story when she spoke to Flick on Oct. 4, 2016, according to the affidavit. After Brunton laid Ortiz down for his nap she recalled seeing Buchhorn holding him to her chest “while sitting on the floor and rocking back and forth making “shushing noises,” the affidavit says. She said she did not see Buchhorn lay Ortiz down again.
In his autopsy report — mentioned in the affidavit — Douglas County Coroner Erik Mitchell said Ortiz’s death was caused by injuries due to blunt force trauma. The fracture at the back of Ortiz’s skull was approximately three inches long and his head was bruised as well.
Mitchell determined “the amount of force needed to cause the fracture would have been produced by an adult,” the affidavit says; a fall or a drop would not have caused the injury because Ortiz was not heavy enough.
Ortiz’s injury would have required immediate medical attention, Mitchell determined. And while the injury might not have been outwardly visible “an adult would have known something happened to (Ortiz) by changes in (his) mood and other symptoms that would not have gone unnoticed,” the affidavit says.
Brunton later told Flick it was odd that Buchhorn could have picked Ortiz up and not have noticed something was wrong, according to the affidavit, because she felt she herself would have noticed the injuries.
After she was charged and arrested Buchhorn appeared in Douglas County District Court, where her attorney, Paul Morrison, argued that the case was “circumstantial.”
Morrison asked Judge Sally Pokorny to lower Buchhorn’s bond, which was originally set at $250,000. The request was granted; however, Pokorny noted that Buchhorn must be held under house arrest with the aid of a GPS tracking device. Prosecutor C.J. Rieg opposed the bond reduction.
Brunton’s day care 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.
Detective Flick has 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 the actual autopsy report, citing the ongoing case.
Buchhorn does not have a criminal record in Douglas County. She is scheduled to appear in court on May 17, when a date will be set for her next hearing.