VALPARAISO | A Porter County jury acquitted a Liberty Township woman in the death of a 6-month-old boy who attended her day care.
Jurors deliberated for about two and a half hours Thursday before clearing Deborah Parlock, 56, of the felony charge of battery resulting in the death of a person younger than 14.
Earlier in the day, a doctor testifying on behalf of the defense disagreed with two other physicians that Chesterton resident Nicholas Munden died of child abuse.
Dr. Philip Deaton, a retired neurosurgeon from North Carolina, said medical records indicate the boy died of natural causes brought on by an unusually large amount of fluid built up in his head.
The pressure in his head led to bleeding, seizures, interruptions in breathing and brain damage resulting in his death, Deaton said.
"It's a little bit, almost of a time bomb situation," he said of Munden's condition.
Parlock, who did not take the stand in her own defense, said she found the boy unresponsive Sept. 19, 2008, at her home day care center. She consistently has denied doing anything wrong.
Parlock could have faced between 20 and 50 years behind bars.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost challenged Deaton's conclusion by questioning his credentials and the fact he did not examine the boy, talk to the boy's doctors or review all the medical records.
"In this case you can't rule out that abuse happened," Frost said, unable to steer Deaton from his conclusion.
Prosecutors put two doctors on the stand this week. They testified Munden suffered head trauma brought on by child abuse.
Deaton said while the type of head swelling experienced by Munden can cure itself by the time the child is about 2, it needs to be monitored closely up to that time to prevent complications.
He downplayed the retinal bleeding the other doctors pointed to as a sign of abuse and said the type of bleeding inside the child's skull occurs in as many as 40 percent of births. He said the bleeding in this case could date back well beyond the boy's first stay at Parlock's day care center.