James D. Wolf Jr. June 16, 2011
Parlock, Deborah 2011 Deborah Parlock for PCNANNY Photo provided to the Post-Tribune ptmet
A Porter County jury took about two hours Thursday to find a former home day-care provider not guilty of abusing a 6-month-old, leading to his death.
Deborah R. Parlock, 56, of Chesterton faced a 20- to 50-year sentence if jurors had found her guilty of felony battery resulting in the death of a person less than 14 years of age.
Defense attorneys John Vouga and Nick Barnes had argued that the death of Nicholas B. Munden was a result of his poor health.
“I never doubted Debbie’s innocence since the day she walked into my office,” Vouga said after the verdict was announced. “From the minute she called 911, she has told the truth about what happened.”
He said her story never changed, that the child was fine the morning of Sept. 19, 2008, then made odd noises and began having trouble breathing — no accidents happened.
The infant went into a coma and never came out, dying 10 days later when his parents decided to shut off life support at University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital.
An autopsy showed the boy had blood on both sides of his brain and in his retinas, which can indicate shaken baby syndrome.
“This case comes down to medical testimony,” Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost said in closing argument.
During the unusually long 45-minute closing arguments, Frost and Vouga tried to discredit the others’ expert witnesses.
Frost said Vouga’s experts had not dealt directly with the child, just reports, and their theories were based on adult cases.
The Comer’s doctors unanimously said it was abuse, he said.
Vouga agreed the case was about medical testimony, and his medical experts said many of the child’s symptoms before the incident — excessive sleeping, an unusual cry and severe vomiting — were signs of fluid on the brain that could have led to his death.
“It also boiled down to the police not doing their job. They did not interview a single parent,” Vouga said.
One parent testified Wednesday that she called to ask Porter County Sheriff’s detectives to interview her 4-year-old.
Vouga also said during closing that the prosecution argued Parlock shook the baby and threw him on the floor, but the boy had no bruises or broken bones.