Babysitter withdraws guilty plea pending product inquiry
Defense: Infant’s death could be tied to recalled sleeper.
Haley Rausch, 25, had her sentencing in an infant death case delayed following a motion by her attorneys to withdraw her guilty plea. THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
By Dean Narciso
The Columbus Dispatch

MARYSVILLE — When David and Dawnyale Weber entered the Union County Courthouse on Wednesday, they were hoping to hear an apology from the woman who was responsible for the death of their 2-month-old daughter two years ago.

Instead, they learned that defense attorneys want to investigate whether the Fisher-Price recall of its Rock ’n Play Sleeper this month had any role in the death of Taylor Weber. If there is a connection, Hayley Breann Rausch, 25, who was babysitting Taylor when she died, might be granted a new trial, and possible exoneration, her attorneys said.

Approximately 4.7 million of the small, seat-like units were recalled April 12, after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission determined that 32 infant deaths since 2011 resulted when babies rolled “from their back to their stomach or side while unrestrained, or under other circumstances.”

Just after visiting Common Pleas Court Judge Mark S.

O’Connor began the hearing, Rausch’s attorneys requested that the sentencing be delayed, a motion O’Connor denied. Attorney Sally Dennison then asked to withdraw Rausch’s guilty plea.

O’Connor ordered Dennison to file a written motion explaining why by the end of the week. Both sides will then file written briefs before O’Connor decides whether to accept the plea withdrawal and retry the case.

“What we need to do is file a motion to say that we have new evidence ... to compare if similar physical findings in the other deaths are what we have here,” said Robert Krapenc, Rausch’s co-counsel.

Terry Hord, Union County assistant prosecutor, said the other deaths are “not relevant” to the specific facts of this case.

Taylor Weber was one of eight children Rausch was babysitting in her home, five of them younger than 18 months, which is two more children than state law allows. The others were Weber’s brother and two other preschool-age children.

Hord had said that the evidence showed that Taylor was face down on the floor with her legs elevated above her torso, partially restrained in a Rock ‘N Play infant seat that likely had toppled.

Authorities said Rausch’s account of the incident was inconsistent with medical evidence, including how the baby was found and what Rausch had been doing. No one has said that Rausch’s actions were intentional.

Krapenc said he will reverse his plea withdrawal motion if the new evidence isn’t relevant.

Rausch pleaded guilty on Feb. 25 to a charge of endangering children, ending what was expected to be a threeday trial over the the death of the infant she had been babysitting on Jan. 24, 2017.

She faced up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine, along with up to three years of post-release control. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a reckless homicide charge.