Reporting Steve Large
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A former Sacramento County daycare provider was found not guilty on Friday of felony child endangerment after a baby died at her home nearly two years ago.
Sheila Caceres, 32, was on trial in the death of Avin Rominger, a 10-week-old infant who died in her care Feb. 23, 2011.
“I’m just so relieved. The decision today was the right decision by far,” Caseres’ best friend Heather Olson said outside the courtroom.
Caceres’ defense attorney said she found the baby unresponsive and immediately tried to save him, but prosecutors alleged she panicked after finding Avin unresponsive and left him unattended upstairs in her Mather home until the boy’s father arrived, then lied to Sacramento County sheriff’s detectives about it.
“The one thing that Shelia Caseres wants everyone to know is that we are all saddened about the loss of little Avin. Our hearts and our sympathies go out to the Rominger family,” Caseres’ defense attorney said.
Defense attorney Joe Welch presented a doctor who testified that Caceres suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of Avin’s death and that contributed to her conflicting stories.
Caceres, once honored as Sacramento County’s daycare provider of the year, has already surrendered her license with the state to operate the facility. She was found guilty Friday of a misdemeanor charge for letting children sleep upstairs, which is against fire regulations at state-licensed daycare homes in California.
The coroner’s office was unable to pinpoint the baby’s cause of death but said immediate medical intervention may have saved him. Welch said it was an unpreventable case of sudden-infant death syndrome.
Juror Kathleen Lieb called the decision a tough call, but said that there was not enough evidence to convict.
“I feel bad, I feel bad. I think she was overwhelmed in this whole thing and I’m sorry that she had to do what she had to do,” she said.
Avin’s parents, Rachelle and David Rominger, left the courthouse without comment. Rachelle had previously lashed out at Caceres in a previous court appearance, yelling “baby killer” as Caceres walked by her.
Like the Rominger family, Sacramento County prosecutors also walked in silence back to the district attorney’s office following the ruling.