Father Found Guilty of Manslaughter, Child Endangerment in Toddler's Death
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Zyriah Schlitter will spend up to 55 years in prison for killing his 17-month-old daughter Kamryn, who died of blunt force head injuries March 28, 2010.
A jury found Zyriah Schlitter, 25, of Cedar Rapids, guilty Friday of involuntary manslaughter, a lesser of the original charge first-degree murder, and child endangerment resulting in death. The jury deliberated two days, reaching a verdict at about 8:30 p.m. Friday, following a two week trial.
Schlitter sat stoic after the judge read the guilty verdict for involuntary manslaughter, a five year sentence, but broke down crying when he heard the verdict for the second charge of child endangerment which carries a 50-year sentence.
His family and Kamryn's mother Nicole King and her family were all crying. Schlitter's family was upset, saying it was unfair and people were "liars" as Schlitter was handcuffed and taken out of the courtroom. Schlitter hugged his mother and other family members before the jury came into the courtroom for the verdict.
Nicole King said after the verdict she was thankful after waiting three years to "get part of my daughter's voice out today." She thanked emergency personnel who tried to help her daughter March 21, 2010 and every one involved with the case - First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks and Hiawatha Police Investigator Rod Fiser and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Darrell Simmons.
Maybanks said he wanted to thank the jury who sat through two weeks of testimony and intensely deliberated two days and "even came through a blizzard." Maybanks said he couldn't say much more about the case because of the pending trial for Amy Parmer, 29, of Hiawatha, who is also charged in this case with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. Her trial is set Jan. 14.
"I will say after a case like this I'm going to go home and give my kids big hugs," Maybanks said.
On Monday, Schlitter testified he didn't inflict fatal injuries to the daughter he "loved dearly." He wasn't concerned about the bruising on Kamryn because she was an active toddler and he thought they were just the normal bumps and bruises most children experience.
He said in hindsight he realizes her symptoms, vomiting and sleepiness, were the result of the head injury but at the time he thought it was because of an ear infection.
"I never suspected child abuse," Schlitter said.
In the first week of testimony, King testified that she initially thought Parmer was to blame for abuse Kamryn suffered, but after seeing the injuries on her daughter in the hospital she said she knew Schlitter was responsible.
Medical experts testified last week that Kamryn would have never recovered from the severe head trauma that was caused by shaking or slamming. Several doctors also said the injuries likely occurred within hours or days of the 911 call Parmer made, saying Kamryn needed medical help.
Dr. Marcus Nashelsky, Johnson County medical examiner and pathology professor at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, who performed the autopsy, testified Kamryn died of blunt force trauma to the head. He couldn't identify the blunt force object. He said it could be the hands of another, punching her, or someone may have held her arms and legs and swung her body into another surface, or someone held her body and pushed her into another surface.
Nashelsky said there were two separate trauma events, an older one possibly week before March 21, 2010 and the recent injury occurred minutes to six hours of the 911 call. He said that was as specific as he could be on timing.
The timing of injury was important because Schlitter wasn't with Kamryn when she became unresponsive and started posturing – her muscles tensed up. He left her with Parmer at about 5 p.m. and the incident happened after 7 p.m. March 21, 2010.
Dr. Nasreen Syed, associate professor of ophthalmology and pathology at UIHC, who examined Kamryn's eyes for the autopsy, testified the multiple retinal hemorrhages were consistent with traumatic injury.
"It would take a violent movement of the head," Syed said. "An acceleration and deceleration of the head."