State has new expert witness in Eudora day care death

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Carrody Buchhorn, of Eudora, appears in Douglas County District Court on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. She was previously convicted of murder in 2018 for the death of a 9-month-old boy, but the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in August 2021.

A Douglas County prosecutor said Friday that the state has found a new expert witness to testify regarding a baby’s cause of death at a Eudora day care in 2016.

A former employee of the day care, Carrody Buchhorn, 47, was convicted in 2018 of killing the baby, 9-month-old Oliver “Ollie” L. Ortiz, but her second-degree murder conviction was overturned last year, when the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled that she had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial — specifically that her trial attorneys had not done enough to oppose Coroner Erik Mitchell’s determination that “depolarization” from head trauma caused Oliver’s death. A divided Kansas Supreme Court allowed the appeals court decision to stand, and Buchhorn now finds herself facing a new trial in Douglas County District Court.

In October, Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny ordered a new preliminary hearing for Buchhorn and scheduled it for January after Buchhorn’s defense attorney, William Skepnek, argued that Mitchell’s testimony was initially relied upon to determine probable cause against Buchhorn and that since the state is no longer relying on that testimony, a new determination of probable cause should take place.

At a status conference Friday, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden confirmed that the state has a new expert witness to testify in place of Mitchell. Seiden said that expert would have a report ready for the court on or before Dec. 16 and that the state was prepared to go forward with the preliminary hearing on Jan. 17, 2023.

Skepnek renewed his argument to dismiss the case and to release Buchhorn from house arrest, but Pokorny said that Buchhorn’s request for a writ of habeas corpus was filed with the Kansas Court of Appeals and that it would be up to that court to rule on that motion. The deadline for the state’s response to the habeas motion is Dec. 7.


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