SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – A jury handed a mixed verdict in the death of an infant who died in 2017.
Thursday afternoon, the jury acquitted Dylan Kitzmiller of child homicide but found him guilty of two counts of child abuse.
“He was confused,” said Rudy Bautista, Kitzmiller’s attorney. “He appreciates and is thankful that the jury did see the truth, that he is not a murderer. He doesn’t understand the findings of child abuse.”
The baby boy named Archer, died 13 days after he was born. Kitzmiller and the baby’s biological mother were both charged with child homicide and multiple counts of child abuse.
Maria Sullivan, the baby’s biological mother, struck a plea deal and murder charges were dropped. She admitted to two counts of child abuse and agreed to testify against Kitzmiller at his trial.
Sullivan did testify and the baby’s biological father also testified. But Jaymie Waters testified on behalf of Kitzmiller.
“I testified because I have a long history with Maria,” Waters said. “In my heart, I felt she was more responsible for what happened to this child and I felt I had to have my voice heard.”
Kitzmiller’s mother said she was relieved that the jury acquitted him of the murder charges.
“Obviously, we were expecting him to be acquitted of all charges,” said Jayna Bowman. But as a mother, the murder charge was taken off the table so we’re truly relieved.”
Kitzmiller’s attorney said Sullivan turned out to be a questionable witness for the state and the jury saw through her.
“She had so many inconsistent statements,” attorney Rudy Bautista said. “She showed no emotion when they showed her (autopsy) pictures of Archer.”
Bautista said the state charged the wrong person because Sullivan was with the baby most of the time.
The infant died from brain injuries and exposure to drugs.
“He tested positive for opioids at birth and at death,” said Bautista. “And she indicated she wasn’t breastfeeding. So, we believe she was giving her son heroin and we believe it was to keep him from crying because she didn’t want to be a mother.”
Waters said he tried to warn the state’s Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) that Sullivan was an alleged drug addict and said he sought custody of baby Archer.
“But they wanted proof that I was the biological father,” said Waters.
He said DCFS turned a blind eye to his plea for custody.
After the child’s death, Waters received results of a DNS test and it did prove he was the father.
“Unfortunately I never got to meet my son,” said Waters. “I never had that right. He was taken from me.”
His attorney said DCFS didn’t handle the case well.
“DCFS dropped the ball on this one,” said Bautista. “Had they handled this case appropriately, Archer would be alive today.
Sullivan will be sentenced Monday on the two counts of child abuse. Each charge carries a one to fifteen years in prison. Waters said he plans to be there to make sure Sullivan doesn’t get a lenient sentence.
“I don’t win at all,” said Waters. “I believe the person responsible needs to be where they can’t cause harm to anyone else.”
Meanwhile, Kitzmiller remains in jail. His $1 million bail was reduced to $250,000. He’ll be sentenced in June.