Chisago Lakes daycare provider acquitted in child’s death

By Derrick Knutson

Salli Schultz, the 43-year-old Chisago Lakes Township day-care provider charged with killing an infant at her unlicensed home childcare facility last year, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter June 14.

After about three hours of deliberation, a Chisago County jury returned with the not-guilty verdict in the Jan. 19, 2011 death of 8-month-old Brooke Kowarsch, of Lindstrom.

Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter said the case was prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office with the aid of Chisago County Attorney Jessica Stott.

“This case was prosecuted because the prosecution believed the evidence was there to prove the counts, but we respect the verdict of the jury,” Reiter said the morning after the verdict.

According to a criminal complaint, Dr. Butch Huston of the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office performed the autopsy on the girl and determined the cause of death was “intracranial hemorrhage as consequence of traumatic head injury and that the manner of death was homicide.”

Defense attorney Earl Gray, with the aid of medical experts, effectively argued the girl died of blood clotting in the cerebral veins, and not traumatic brain injury as the prosecution tried to prove.

“She was clearly innocent from the beginning,” Gray said. “This was a very scary case because you had an innocent person on trial for something she didn’t do.”

He added that the three hours the jury took to deliberate following the nine-day trial was a short amount of time compared to other murder cases he’s seen, but that brief deliberation pointed to the “overwhelming” amount of evidence showing Schultz was innocent.

Reiter, in a follow-up e-mail, reiterated the prosecution was disappointed in the outcome of the case and she added, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Kowarsch family.”

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