Romeoville day care worker to get new trial after 'shaken baby' murder conviction overturned

JOLIET – A Romeoville day care worker will receive a new trial in the "shaken baby" death of a Plainfield girl, a judge ordered Monday.

Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes overturned Jennifer L. DelPrete's murder conviction, but also granted the state 30 days to determine if they will appeal her decision.

On Dec. 27, 2002, DelPrete was working at a home-based daycare center in Romeoville when 14-month-old Isabella Zielinski stopped breathing, according to Herald-News archives.

Experts said Isabella had suffered brain injuries and DelPrete was charged with aggravated battery. Isabella died in November 2003.

Alessio Policandriotes convicted DelPrete during a bench trial in 2005 and sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

DelPrete, 45, maintained she did not injure the girl and brought her case to federal court.

After hearings were held in 2013, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled DelPrete's conviction was a result of unreliable scientific evidence.

"More likely than not ... no reasonable juror would have found her guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt," Kennelly wrote.

Advocates and researchers looking into wrongful convictions also obtained a letter written by Romeoville Police Department Deputy Chief Ken Kroll through the Freedom of Information Act. Kroll wrote the pathologist who performed Isabella's autopsy had doubts she'd been shaken or abused, according to the Northwestern University Medill Justice Project's website.

DelPrete was released from prison in 2014 while pursuing her appeal.