LIMA — Jurors tasked with determining the fate of Vicki Shellabarger deliberated for five hours Friday before concluding they were hopelessly deadlocked on the most serious count against the 38-year-old Convoy woman charged with killing her infant daughter.
A mistrial was declared on a single count of murder after the jury foreman told Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed he did not feel additional deliberations would break the stalemate.
The panel did return guilty verdicts on each of the remaining counts — a first-degree felony charge of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of endangering children. Reed said Shellabarger will be sentenced May 24. The involuntary manslaughter count carries a maximum prison sentence of 11 years.
The charges revolved around the April 28, 2018 death of 22-month-old Madilynn Shellabarger, the defendant’s daughter, in a Delphos apartment. Medical experts in the trial testified the infant died as a result of blunt abdominal trauma. Dr. Randall Schliebert, director of child abuse programming for Mercy Health Network, told jurors the “only thing that makes sense is that (Madilynn) was beaten to death.”
Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick told jurors during his closing arguments the evidence was clear that Vicki Shellabarger was the only person who could have inflicted the injuries suffered by her infant daughter.
After the verdicts were read Waldick called the case “one of the most factually difficult cases that I’ve handled during my tenure as prosecutor.” He called Shellabarger’s conviction on the involuntary manslaughter charge “appropriate.”
Shellabarger looked to the ceiling and then dabbed tears from her eyes as the verdicts were read.
Testimony in the trial wrapped up Thursday afternoon. Attorneys presented their closing arguments Friday morning and, following a lengthy set of legal instructions from the judge, jurors began their deliberations before noon.
In his portion of closing arguments, Assistant Prosecutor Randall Basinger pointed out numerous “false statements and admissions” by Shellabarger that he said were an attempt “to cover up what she had done” to cause her daughter’s death. He cited a transcript of a 911 emergency call on the night Madilynn Shellabarger died which stated that the infant’s mother was heard by dispatchers to say “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Why would she say that?” Basinger asked of jurors. “Because she knew she had hurt Maddie. The evidence is clear that Maddie died as a result of an assault and the person who did that is seated in this courtroom.”
Defense Attorney Steve Chamberlain dismissed the state as little more than “crap.”
“The state is turning the burden of proof on its head. The main pillars of the state’s case are made of sand,” Chamberlain said. “We know there were injuries that were inflicted on Madilynn Shellabarger, but by who? No one has shown you anything beyond a reasonable doubt that Vicki Shellabarger should pay for this.”