Nine-month-old Oliver “Ollie” Ortiz was found unresponsive in his crib at Buchhorn’s daycare following an afternoon nap in 2016. Although first responders tried to revive him, he did not survive.
The county’s coroner said Ortiz died from a blow to the head. Buchhorn was the last person with the child, but she denied hurting the infant.
Then in 2021, the Kansas Court of Appeals ordered a new trial. The appeals court said Buchhorn’s attorney didn’t thoroughly investigate the coroner’s ruling.
The prosecutor’s office then appealed the ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court, which was split in its decision, meaning the lower court’s decision would stand.
Last fall, however, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office told the court it would not use the coroner’s testimony in a retrial and found a new expert witness.
District Attorney Suzanne Valdez, who took office in January 2021, said the county, not the prosecutor’s office, determines what coroner to contract with. Valdez said the coroner at the time, Dr. Erik Mitchell, did not meet her standards for an expert witness.
“As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, I chose not to use Dr. Mitchell as a witness of any sort due to his questionable professional reputation,” Valdez said.
A new report from a child abuse expert said Ortiz was “a victim of child physical abuse resulting in injuries that ultimately led to his death.”
But a new forensic pathologist’s report also later said “that Oliver Ortiz died from natural disease and pathophysiologic processes unrelated to child abuse.”
“Until we received the report from our retained forensic pathologist, we had no reason to doubt that we had sufficient evidence to proceed with the retrial of Ms. Buchhorn,” Valdez said.
Although there are conflicting reports from the two experts, Valdez said she does not believe they have sufficient evidence to proceed with prosecuting Buchhorn.
The Douglas County prosecutor said she didn’t make this decision lightly.
“If there is any consolation to be had by those who mourn the loss of Ollie, it can be found in the fact that many trained professionals worked tirelessly to pursue justice, and Ollie will never be forgotten,” she said.