Rachel Reeves was supposed to go to trial yesterday on charges that she killed her 15-month old, Julia Leigh Rivera, two years ago. But when a key witness--the babysitter who was with the little girl when she stopped breathing--fled to Mexico, the case was dismissed.
The babysitter has been in Mexico since July. With their star witness out of the country, Hennepin County Prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder charges against Reeves yesterday, ending Reeves's two-year nightmare.
At least for now. The County Attorney's hasn't exactly had a change of heart about Reeves.
"Absolutely, we still maintain that this is the person who did it," says Santo Cruz, spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.[jump]
The County Attorney's Office is now hot on the trail of the missing babysitter, identified in the criminal complaint only as "L.R."
"We are working with federal agencies right now," Cruz says. "She has been located. We're going to try to get her back to the United States to be the key witness in this case."
On March 26, 2009, Reeves dropped off her daughter at the babysitter's house in Minnetonka. Reeves placed Julia, who was in a snowsuit, in a crib and told the babysitter to leave the little girl alone, according to the criminal charges. Reeves said that if Julia woke up, the babysitter should give her medication.
The babysitter checked on Julia about 15 minutes later. She pulled off the little girl's snowsuit and told her that she wanted her to be more comfortable. Julia did not respond, and the babysitter saw that the little girl looked strange. Her eyes were open, but she "had a blank look." The babysitter told police that Julia was "extremely pale and just with her eyes very empty. . . . [I]t looked like she was on another planet," according to the criminal complaint.
Julia took a nap, and when she woke up the babysitter noticed that she still had a "blank look" in her eyes. The little girl arched her back and began twisting, so the babysitter, who does not speak English, asked her son to call 911. The operator told him how to give the little girl CPR.
Julia was taken to Minneapolis Children's Hospital, where she died on March 30, 2009. She had a serious injuries in both eyes, including a detached retina. She also had a skull fracture with internal bleeding. Julia died of significant brain injury caused by blunt force trauma, according to the autopsy. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Defense attorney Diane Dodd argues that the babysitter should be suspect in the case, and told City Pages that there may still be evidence out there implicating the babysitter.
"We believe that she is the person who should be the suspect because Rachel Reeves did not do anything to her daughter, and the babysitter was with Julia when she needed 911 to be called," Dodd says.
As for Reeves, Dodd says her client is devastated by all that has happened. "She is trying to put her life back together. This has just been a horrible experience for her to lose her daughter and then be accused of murder."No word yet on what date the county will again press charges.
"As soon as we get our key witness back the case will be resubmitted," says Cruz, of the County Attorney's Office.