For the second time in two years, a jury will try to decide if a former Richland nanny is responsible for the death of a toddler.
After more than a week of testimony in the first-degree manslaughter trial of Kelli Jacobsen, jurors listened to almost three hours of closing arguments Tuesday.
The jury of eight men and four women then deliberated a few hours before being sent home for the evening.
Jacobsen, 31, is on trial for the death of Ryder Morrison after a jury in 2013 could not agree on a verdict. It took 19 hours over four days before a mistrial was declared.
Ryder died at Kadlec Regional Medical Center from abusive head trauma shortly after medics responded to his home on Williams Boulevard. Jacobsen, a live-in nanny, was watching the boy.
Doctors have said Ryder’s death on June 22, 2011, was from abusive head trauma, which happened minutes or possibly up to 24 hours before he was rushed to the hospital.
His mother, Tawney Johnson, stopped home during her half-hour lunch break but was back at work when she got the call her son was going to Kadlec. He died on the operating table a day after his first birthday.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller focused much of his closing argument on the different stories Jacobsen apparently told after Ryder was injured. She has claimed the boy fell a short distance while playing on a toy.
Miller claimed Jacobsen told at least six different versions of how Ryder was injured when she talked with a 911 dispatcher, neighbors and medical personnel. The stories varied in how the boy was positioned, how he fell and what toys he was playing with.
All the versions were inconsistent with medical experts’ opinions that a short fall could not have caused Ryder’s significant injuries, Miller said. They boy had acute brain trauma, a spinal injury and 22 bruises.
“(Evidence) contradicts each and every one of these statements by the defendant,” Miller told the jurors.
Miller’s arguments were dramatic at times, with the veteran prosecutor pointing directly at Jacobsen to accuse her of killing Ryder. He also told the jury to look at Ryder’s mother, Tawney Johnson, praising her for her courage during the trial.
Defense attorney Shane Silverthorn told jurors that prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jacobsen is responsible for Ryder’s death.
The Ellensburg attorney has suggested that someone else who had access to Ryder in the hours before he died abused the boy.
He said Jacobsen’s stories may have varied slightly because she was in shock and panicked when telling others how Ryder fell.
Silverthorn said claims that Jacobsen was unemotional and detached when Ryder became unresponsive are untrue. Jacobsen cared deeply for Ryder and was a big part of his young life.
“She loved him like a son,” he said.
Miller was clear that prosecutors don’t allege Jacobsen wanted Ryder to die, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be held legally responsible for his death, he said.
“Ryder Morrison needs justice,” he said. “Our community needs justice.”
Jurors will have the option to convict Jacobsen of first-degree man slaughter or the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter.
They also will have the choice to convict Jacobsen of two aggravating circumstances, which would add additional prison time if she’s convicted.