LIMA —Less than a week before the start of the trial in the case of Vicki Shellabarger, charged with murder in the 2018 death of her infant daughter, attorneys on Wednesday argued over a handful of 11th-hour motions.
Shellabarger, 38, is charged with murder, an unclassified felony; involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony; endangering children, a felony of the second degree; and a third-degree felony count of endangering children in connection with the death of her 22-month-old daughter, Madilynn Shellabarger.
The infant was found unresponsive in a Delphos apartment on April 29, 2018, and died later that day at a Lima hospital as the result of blunt force trauma.
On March 19 defense attorney Steve Chamberlain filed a motion with the court seeking the dismissal of the case against Shellabarger “or some other relief for violation of the defendant’s due process rights” after prosecutors disclosed some key information less than 14 days prior to trial.
Three days earlier the state filed a motion to exclude evidence at trial pertaining to past civil lawsuits filed against an individual that prosecutors plan to use as an expert witness in Shellabarger’s trial.
“This filing is the first and only document or notice ever provided by the state of Ohio to the defendant of information of possible impeachment for the state’s expert,” Chamberlain wrote in his response.
In court on Wednesday Chamberlain said the late disclosure left him little time to secure his own expert witness in the case. “At the proper time I will move for a mistrial, for purposes of appeal,” he told Judge Jeffrey Reed.
The defense attorney in his motion asked that the case against Shellabarger be dismissed or that a continuance be granted. Reed denied the requests and upheld a motion that would prohibit the defense from presenting to jurors any information about civil lawsuits filed against the state’s expert witness.
Also overruled was a defense motion that would have prevented prosecutors from presenting to jurors autopsy photos of the young victim. Chamberlain had argued in his motion that the display to jurors of “these gruesome photographs” would jeopardize his client’s right to due process, a fair trial and “the right to be free from arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment.”
Shellabarger quickly looked away when Prosecuting Attorney Juergen Waldick handed to Chamberlain 13 photos of Madilynn Shellabarger taken by the medical examiner that will be shown to jurors. The defendant shortly thereafter could be seen dabbing tears from her eyes.
Shellabarger appeared briefly in Allen County Common Pleas Court on March 15 when she formally rejected an offer from prosecutors to enter into a plea agreement. The specifics of the plea deal were not entered into the official record.