Arizona Woman Sues Authorities in Infant Death Case

August 16, 2011

A Peoria woman who once faced the death penalty is suing authorities who accused her of killing an infant she was babysitting.

Last year, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed the murder case against Lisa Randall after an expert debunked the county medical examiner’s findings.

Police, prosecutors and medical examiners claimed the 4-month-old boy died after suffering blunt-force trauma to the head and Randall was responsible.

The 50-year-old Randall was babysitting Dillon Uutela in April 2007 at her home day-care when she said she found the baby pale and unresponsive on her living room floor.

She told police that she did nothing wrong and questioned whether the boy’s high fever in the days before his death, or perhaps a recent shot, might have made him ill.

Eight months after Dillon’s death, a grand jury indicted Randall and police arrested her. Prosecutors sought the death penalty against the mother of five.

The Arizona Republic says Randall spent more than six months in jail as her attorney sought medical experts who said Dillon’s illness might have caused the injuries noted by county medical examiners.

The experts said a crack in Dillon’s skull mentioned in the autopsy report was natural for an infant and that brain swelling could have caused skull fractures and bleeding.

The case was briefly dismissed in 2008 before the County Attorney’s Office again filed charges. A judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to keep Randall in jail, and she was released with electronic monitoring.

Two years later, a deputy county attorney filed a motion to withdraw a recommendation that Randall face the death penalty.

A prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the case after a panel of county attorneys voted 8-0 that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.

Finally, a judge ruled the case against Randall be permanently dismissed.

But Randall said her legal bills totaled nearly $220,000 and she had lost her home and her marriage ended.

“It devastated my entire family,” Randall said. “I’ve always believed in the system, always had people in my life who were in law enforcement. They didn’t want the truth. They wanted a win.”

Randall now is suing Peoria, Maricopa County, the County Attorney’s Office, a deputy county attorney, a county medical examiner and a Peoria police detective who investigated Dillon’s death for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.

Her January notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, sought $12.6 million for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees. Peoria and the county declined comment on Randall’s suit.

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