Marysville babysitter faces jail time in infant’s death

Medical experts differed over whether it was head trauma or illness that caused the baby to die.

EVERETT — A Marysville woman was convicted Wednesday in the death of 4-month-old Kailynn Watson.

Jurors deliberated for more than three days before announcing that the child’s death was second-degree manslaughter. The verdict spares Cheyanne Jarrell years behind bars.

Jarrell was babysitting Kailynn Feb. 26, 2016, when she quit breathing. Prosecutors alleged that Jarrell, 23, became frustrated while watching her own infant daughter and Kailynn and shook the girl with enough force to damage her spine. Doctors concluded that the spinal injury paralyzed Kailynn’s diaphragm, depriving her of oxygen.

Kailynn was declared brain dead three days after she was rushed to the hospital. Multiple exams revealed a contusion on her spine, brain bleeding and retinal hemorrhages.

Jarrell was charged with first-degree manslaughter, accused of recklessly causing the baby’s death. Jurors acquitted her of that charge but found her guilty of the lesser degree of manslaughter, concluding her actions were negligent.

The verdict indicated jurors didn’t believe Jarrell disregarded the risk that her actions jeopardized the baby’s life. Instead, they concluded Jarrell failed to be aware of that risk but should have been.

Jarrell had testified that she knew handling a baby roughly could lead to injuries or death. She denied shaking Kailynn.

Jarrell faces up to two years in prison when she’s sentenced in November. If she’d been convicted of the more serious crime, she faced up to 81⁄2 years behind bars.

Superior Court Judge Michael Downes ordered a tearful Jarrell taken into custody after he read the verdict. He set bail at $50,000 and ordered Jarrell not to have any unsupervised contact with children, including her daughter, now a toddler.

In ordering bail, Downes said jurors must have believed the prosecutors’ theory that Jarrell mishandled a stressful situation. He worried about her possible behavior now that she’s facing a prison sentence. He said he was concerned for the safety of Jarrell’s daughter.

“This was never a case about Ms. Jarrell intentionally hurting a child,” he said.

It’s always been a case of her reacting to the “stressors and frustrations of the world” and losing control, with fatal consequences, Downes said.

The nearly three-week trial shaped up to be a battle between medical experts.

Doctors called by the defense disputed claims that abusive head trauma was the reason for Kailynn’s death. They suggested that other conditions, such as pneumonia, could account for the girl’s symptoms. They argued that the state’s expert witnesses were relying on flawed science.

Prosecutors accused the defense of bringing in doctors whose opinions are not representative of the general scientific community.

In the end jurors were convinced Jarrell’s actions were responsible for Kailynn’s death.

Jarrell testified that she found the baby unresponsive less than a minute after putting her on the couch. A 911 tape played for jurors captured Jarrell’s attempts to revive Kailynn.

Jarrell denied allegations that she was frustrated with the baby or overwhelmed caring for two infants. Instead, she told jurors even as a new mom she found it easy to watch Kailynn and her own 4-month-old daughter.

Kailynn’s mom testified that she started thinking about getting a new sitter when Jarrell made repeated complaints about the girl being fussy. Those reports were inconsistent with the baby’s behavior at home.

She voiced her concerns with Jarrell’s mother and the complaints stopped, jurors were told. Prosecutors alleged that Jarrell, a single mom, was worried about losing the job.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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