Shaken baby trial begins
As jurors filed into a silent courtroom in the Goodhue County Justice Center Thursday morning, a poster board titled “The Brain” sat on an easel awaiting the state’s opening statements in its case against David Michael Rindahl Jr.
Rindahl faces five felony charges – first- and third-degree assault along with three counts of malicious punishment of a child – all of which date back to an October 2012 incident in which he allegedly shook his 4-month-old daughter, Kyra Rindahl, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and seizures.
Goodhue County attorney Erin Kuester said in her opening statement that the first months of the infant’s life were normal and by all accounts she was happy, healthy and developing well until the evening of Sunday Oct. 28, 2012.
Rindahl’s initial account of the events preceding his daughter’s first seizure was not consistent with the child’s injuries, Kuester continued, and it wasn’t until doctors were informed of the interview Rindahl gave to investigators that the injuries made sense.
In the interview, according to a criminal complaint filed on Nov. 1, 2012, in Goodhue County District Court, Rindahl admitted to shaking his daughter from side to side to “calm her down,” and when asked if his actions caused his daughter’s injuries he stated, “I would agree with that.”
Rindahl also said he didn’t shake her violently and he never meant to hurt her, according to the complaint.
At the conclusion of Kuester’s opening statement, defense attorney Timothy Dillon informed the court he will wait until the state rests its case to proceed with his opening statement.
The jury heard from five witnesses Thursday, with testimony from Kelsie Kuyath, the mother and Rindahl’s ex-wife, taking the majority of the morning session.
Kuyath said Kyra, the youngest of her and Rindahl’s daughters, had no seizures prior to Oct. 28, 2012, referring to Kyra as her “sensitive child” and that she needed to have things her way, adding she was a good baby for her, but she cried a lot when with Rindahl and others.
When Kuyath was told doctors believed the injury was not an accident, she said she was “shocked.”
“I thought they were wrong,” she said. Kuyath agreed with Dillon’s statement that she never had concerns of Rindahl being violent, using drugs or alcohol and that he was a passive person.
Kuyath said she was confident that if Rindahl was feeling stressed while caring for the children he would call someone and ask for help, as this was the plan they had agreed upon. On a few occasions, Kuyath said, Rindahl called her at work and she came home to help with their children.
On Oct. 28, 2012, Dr. Margaret Decker, who has worked in pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 20 years at what is now Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, was called into the emergency room.
Decker said that night, after viewing the results of a CT scan, she diagnosed the 4-month-old with a subdural hema-toma, which is a collection of blood on the brain and caused by trauma or significant force.
While examining her, Decker said she saw no signs of bruising anywhere on the child, but that bruising doesn’t always show on infants who have been shaken. Decker added she believes that some action generated enough force to cause the brain injury. However, in her testimony, she said she did not claim to know what that action was.
As of midday Friday the state had called five other witnesses, including Cheryl Baldwin from Goodhue County Health and Human Services, who was assigned to the case following Kyra’s admittance to the hospital, Dr. Daniel Broughton, pediatric physician who examined Kyra at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Dr. Peter Kalina, neuroradiology specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, who assessed Kyra’s CT scans and MRI scans, Kuyath’s father and an acquaintance who watched Kyra and her sister on occasion.
The trial is expected to go into next week.