CEDAR RAPIDS — Zyriah Schlitter, convicted in the 2010 death of his 18-month-old daughter, pleaded to an amended charge Friday and remains free after having served four years in prison.
Schlitter, 30, pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of felony child neglect in the death of Kamryn Schlitter, who died from blunt force head injuries caused by shaking or slamming.
A Linn County jury in 2012 convicted Schlitter, of Cedar Rapids, of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment, and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
In 2016, the Iowa Supreme Court granted him a new trial on the child endangerment charge, saying Schlitter’s attorney had erred in not asking for an acquittal.
Facing the possibility of a new trial, Schlitter on Friday entered an Alford plea to the lesser charge of felony child neglect, admitting there was “sufficient evidence” that he knowingly or recklessly exposed Kamryn to a hazard or danger. He also admitted a jury could likely find him guilty based on the minutes of testimony.
He gave no other statement, except to thank the court for its time. Several family members and friends were in the courtroom to support him.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde said she was suspending Schlitter’s 10-year prison term on the child neglect charge because if she sent him back to prison, he would likely be out in a few months because he had served nearly four years on the manslaughter charge. She instead sentenced Schlitter to three years of supervised probation.
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She acknowledged that Schlitter had found a job and had no violations on his record after being released from prison following the Supreme Court ruling.
Hoover-Grinde said Schlitter will have to “live for the rest of your life” with the knowledge of what happened in Kamryn’s death.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said Kamryn’s mother, Nicole King, and Jerri King, her grandmother, were not in court Friday but gave victim impact statements at Schlitter’s first sentencing.
Maybank said he offered the plea agreement to give the King family closure, which they want after more than seven years.
“Kamryn will always live on in their hearts and in sweet memories of her, but nothing will bring her back,” he said.
Maybanks said he accepted the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to grant Schlitter a new trial on the child endangerment charge but that taking the case to trial again would mean the prosecution would have to adopt a different theory of who was responsible, and he wouldn’t do that.
“Facts don’t change through the passage of time,” Maybanks said. “The truth will always be the truth.”
He did not make a sentencing recommendation, saying he would leave that up to the court.
William Kutmus of West Des Moines, Schlitter’s lawyer, asked the court for probation because it’s the “reasonable sentence.”
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Kutmus said Schlitter has a good, stable job, which he quickly got last year after the court’s ruling, and has strong family support.
According to the prosecution’s theory in Schlitter’s 2012 trial, Schlitter and his then-girlfriend Amy Parmer either individually or jointly inflicted Kamryn’s fatal injuries and knowingly permitted the other to abuse her or failed to protect the child from the other.
On appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court granted a new trial based on Schlitter’s attorney’s error of not asking the trial judge for an acquittal on that charge.
The court’s ruling pointed out that when Kamryn exhibited her first and second set of bruises, numerous others had cared for her, including Parmer, day-care providers, her mother and several members of Schlitter’s family. Also, testimony indicated, Schlitter wasn’t with Kamryn during the two hours leading up to a 911 call before her death when she was in the care of Parmer.
Parmer, 30, of Hiawatha, was tried separately and convicted in 2013 of child endangerment resulting in death and involuntary manslaughter. Her appeal was denied. She is serving 50 years in prison.
In his 2012 trial, Schlitter testified he’d never suspected Kamryn was being abused and that he thought her bruises were the result of her being an active toddler. He also testified he thought Parmer may have put makeup on the bruises when she took Kamryn to day-care, where a worker reported the bruises to the Department of Human Services.
Kutmus last year questioned if the Iowa Supreme Court intended Schlitter’s involuntary manslaughter conviction to stand, but Hoover-Grinde ruled the court didn’t change that conviction.
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