Lisa Randall, a Wrongly Charged Former Peoria Daycare Operator, Benefited Greatly From Andrew Thomas' Departure

Lisa Randall stepped into the bright sunlight Thursday morning, July 22, surrounded by family, friends, and her attorney.

Randall took a deep breath and held onto the youngest of her five adult children, daughter Brenna. She pulled one of her pant legs up a few inches to expose the ankle monitor she had been wearing since a judge released her on house arrest more than two years earlier.

"I want to get rid of that thing right now," Randall said to no one in particular. "It is awful, awful — just awful."

Former murder defendant Lisa Randall and her attorney David Cantor outside Superior Court after last week's dismissal of all charges.
photos by Michael Ratcliff
Former murder defendant Lisa Randall and her attorney David Cantor outside Superior Court after last week's dismissal of all charges.
Lisa Randall, family, and supporters celebrate on the morning of July 22.
Lisa Randall, family, and supporters celebrate on the morning of July 22.

But not nearly as awful as what she had been facing for nearly three years — which was the possibility of life behind bars or (until recently) execution by the State of Arizona.

A few minutes earlier, Superior Court Judge Mike Kemp had dismissed a first-degree murder/aggravated child-abuse case against the 49-year-old former Peoria daycare operator.

Kemp's order came a few days after Maricopa County prosecutors informed him that they didn't have the evidence to convict Randall at trial, which had been scheduled to start August 2.

"The dismissal is in the interests of justice," Deputy County Attorney Belle Whitney told the judge at the short hearing.

Any chance for a conviction ended abruptly after an expert witness hired by prosecutors to analyze the evidence concluded last month that the state's case against Randall was flawed to the extreme — he didn't think there even had been a homicide.

"I cannot support the cause of death as being blunt-force trauma of the head and neck," Dr. Cliff Nelson, a medical examiner for the state of Oregon, wrote to case prosecutors Whitney and Frankie Grimsman. "Not only is the conclusion unsupported, I feel most of the observations leading to that conclusion are in error."

It was a stunning turn of events in an emotional case that New Times had investigated for almost two years before publishing last week's cover story, "Phantom Murder," available on our Web site.

The story, which current Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley cited at a press conference later that day as a "fair and extremely thorough" guide to learning what went wrong with the case, described how it was fraught on with nagging medical questions about the tragic April 2007 death of 4-month-old Dillon Uutela.

The infant suffered a cardiac arrest at Randall's home (where she ran her daycare business) on the late morning of April 18, 2007, and never regained consciousness after paramedics got his heart going again.

Dillon died a few days later at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Doctors there (Adam Schwartz and Jennifer Geyer) — and, later, a pathologist at the Office of the Medical Examiner (Kevin Horn) — told Peoria police with great confidence that Dillon's death came as the result of intentionally inflicted blunt-force trauma at the hands of Randall.

Those doctors said it was overwhelmingly clear to them that Dillon had sustained several injuries — retinal hemorrhages, bleeding inside his brain, and skull fractures — during his short time with Randall.

Dillon had been at Randall's home for only about an hour when she frantically called 911 after finding him unconscious and not breathing.

It should have come as no surprise that Peoria police soon tried to wring a confession from Randall during several interrogations. But Randall didn't confess to hurting Dillon, either accidentally or intentionally.

A county grand jury indicted the woman on the murder and abuse charges in November 2007.

A few months later, according to Romley, his predecessor as county attorney, Andrew Thomas, overruled a review committee of veteran office prosecutors and ordered the case against Randall to be adjudicated as a capital crime.

Randall's family scraped together the funds to pay Tempe-based attorney David Cantor to represent her. Cantor and colleagues found — and paid — medical experts who strongly disagreed with the prosecution's point of view.

One of the experts, Dr. F. Ralph Berberich of Berkeley, California, concluded, "It would appear most likely that this baby, in recovery phase from a viral illness, had a SIDS-like event leading to apnea and cardiopulmonary arrest from which he was resuscitated. There followed the physical effects, laboratory abnormalities, and organ failure associated with profound and prolonged apnea."

(Apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic's Web site, is "a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.")

Dr. Nelson said he couldn't disagree with that analysis and added, "At this point, the cause of death remains undetermined . . . I have had other cases thought [by pediatricians] to be deaths due to inflicted head trauma by which, after complete death investigation, proved the result of a SIDS-like event."

The dismissal of the murder case against Randall was the third "defeat" suffered by Peoria police in child abuse/murder cases in recent years.

In February 2006, a county jury acquitted Delano Yanes of first-degree murder and child abuse in the horrific death of his 11-month-old son. The deputy county attorney in that case, Grimsman (who later joined the Lisa Randall prosecution team), claimed that Yanes had sodomized the infant during a 20-minute window and that the trauma had exploded the baby's heart.

But DNA was lacking, and medical experts disagreed on every important piece of evidence, including whether the baby had been sodomized.

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17 comments
Cops in General
Cops in General

Not hard to figure out why law enforcement is referred to as PIGS.

Guest
Guest

Hope she sues this guilty at all cost State, they have once again destroyed another life with their bullshit lying prosecution.

The Tip of the Iceberg!
The Tip of the Iceberg!

We thank Mr. Romley, for righting the wrongs in this tragic case. We hope he continues to do the same fpr so many innocent people, Andrew Thomas, Rachel Alexander and Lisa Aubuchon, among others at the MCAO, whose lives they have tragically destroyed without a second thought but acting as victims themselves.

BobJob
BobJob

This is getting worse and worse. Law enforcement and prosecutors are coming into absolute authority. The check and balance once provided by the executive and judicial branch has merged together. These cases mark a travesty of law but even worse are the people that are undoubtedly in jail and prison for crimes they did not commit.

Accountability. These law enforcement agencies need to be held accountable. Also, the individual investigator needs to be held accountable when their investigation amounts to gross negligence.

Police and prosecutors, what ever happened to doing the right thing? As one who is very pro law enforcement and justice, I find myself wishing justice upon those sworn to provide it more often.

Pay attention law enforcement and judicial people ... you ARE alienating the people you serve.

Manfrommontco
Manfrommontco

Sorry folks, but this story repeats itself across the entire nation every day, and has been doing so for decades. Prosecutors want closed files not accurate files, and they always go for the easy way. Innocent person confesses? That's their problem.

Bryan
Bryan

I'm glad to hear justice prevailed.

Thomas charged my wife with DUI and threatened the "full force of the law" on her least she "confess" and receive a lesser sentence. We decided to stick to our principles come hell or high water. Thomas dropped the charges 1-day before trial with the same excuse this case was dropped; "In the interest of justice". Excuse me? Wasn't it "in the interest of justice" that the charges were brought up initially? Hello? He had NOTHING because NOTHING was to be had, just like this case. Yet, he drove our family through hell and cost us thousands of dollars. The poor woman in this story went through 100x more grief than our family, our hearts go out to her.

We're not alone as this story and the countless untold stories point out. Andrew Thomas and his prosecutors should be disbarred from practicing law. It's not enough to get Thomas, you MUST include the lawyers that work for him, too.

Ref: Phoenix NewTimes, http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com...

Thomas=Arizona Prison State
Thomas=Arizona Prison State

How much has Andrew Thomas 200,000 convictions cost the taxpayers - wasting limited resources on non-violent, first offenders? Since he was former chief legal counsel for Arizona Department of Corrections, it seems that he enjoys "building" the mass incarceration of Arizona. Since those at the top have a conflict of interest in CCA and the privatization of prisons, it would seem like Thomas has helped his "friends" creating a need for even more prisons. Morgan Loew, CH 5 has truly opened the Pandora's Box on who stands to gain and where Arizona is headed.

XSoldier
XSoldier

Andrew Thomas is Joe Arpaio's mentally unstable right nut. (Russell Pearce is Joe's sagging wrinkly left nut.)

Now that the Lisa Randall prosecution has turned out to be a total sham (just like ALL of Thomas' prosecutions), I wonder if she will sue the Peoria PD, as well as Crybaby?

Also, I hope she provides information to the federal grand jury investigating Thomas, as well as speaking to the ethics investigator hired by the state to check into Thomas.

If I am to back a Republican for AG, it's Horne. However, I have made my decision to vote for someone already for this position.

Andrew Thomas is mentally unstable and needs to be locked away in a mental ward..... Just like his buddies JD Hayowrth, the Flaccid Fool, neo-Nazi hugger and known woman beater Senator Pearce, Fat Bastard, and MCSO Captain Joel Fox.

End Thomas's Career
End Thomas's Career

Andrew Thomas is bad for the citizens of Arizona. Can you imagine him doing to the state what he did to Maricopa County? Please realize Independent and Republican voters STOP THE EVIL. Vote Horne end Thomas's reign of terror, abuse of power and self-rightous actions.The AG will have an important role after this election. We need no more Thomas footprints on the backs of our citizens.

Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas

The problem with Andrew Thomas is that he exerts a heavy hand against law abiding citizens to show inflated statistics on his prosecutions. Thomas routinely criticizes his opponents for not being conservative enough but to those of us who know Thomas and have seen the destruction he causes first hand, Thomas is little more than a dangerous zealot.

I must say I am surprised that Andrew Thomas received an endorsement from the NRA. He may have a flimsy pro-gun record but just try and show or use a gun of any type for a just cause in his jurisdiction and you will be facing jail time. My line of work has led me to know people that have been prosecuted by Andrew Thomas and forced to plead to felonies for simply showing or having a weapon in the open. The Thomas office calls that “brandishing” a weapon.

I have met several people who have stopped criminals in the act of committing felonies by firing a weapon who then were prosecuted and sent to jail. One person stopped vandalism and a break-in from occurring at their neighbor’s home, plead to shooting within the city limits and was sent to jail. Another person I know actually stopped a kidnapping by firing a gun but was then forced to plead to a felony and was sent to jail. The Thomas office called that “shooting into a structure”. In each of these cases there was no victim but the Andrew Thomas office declared Maricopa County the victim.

I don’t know who the NRA meant to endorse, but I think they were duped into supporting Thomas. Gun owner’s rights ARE NOT PROTECTED under an Andrew Thomas administration. Gun owners protecting their families, property and others should not be prosecuted like common criminals. Thomas touts a 94% conviction rate and 200,000 felony cases. What good is Andrew Thomas’ conviction record if it means ANY of the people being prosecuted are average good citizens with families, jobs, who own real property, who pay their taxes and who find it necessary to opt for jail time by pleading to felony charges rather than taking a chance in court and being sent to prison?

Don’t vote for Andrew Thomas. You might be next.

Concerned Peoria Resident
Concerned Peoria Resident

Peoria PD miffs ANOTHER one! I've read up on this case, and the Peoria Police Department was after this lady before they even got onscene. These morans need to get it together, before they bankrupt our city with all of the settlements forthcoming!

Retired Prosecutor
Retired Prosecutor

This is just one of many reasons to vote for Tom Horne, not Andrew Thomas. If you're a Republican, vote for Horne. If you're an Independent, request a Republican ballot, now, so you can vote for Horne. Don't wait for the general election, defeat Andrew Thomas in the primary so he doesn't do statewide what he did to Maricopa County.

Destroyed by Thomas
Destroyed by Thomas

Bryan, Thank you for telling your story about Thomas abuse of power and the destruction he caused your family. We hope others will have the courage to come forward. Your voices need to be heard.

Thomas=AZ Prison State
Thomas=AZ Prison State

How much has Andrew Thomas 200,000 convictions cost the taxpayers - wasting limited resources on non-violent, first offenders? Since he was former chief legal counsel for Arizona Department of Corrections, it seems that he enjoys "building" the mass incarceration of Arizona. Since those at the top have a conflict of interest in CCA and the privatization of prisons, it would seem like Thomas has helped his "friends" creating a need for even more prisons. Morgan Loew, CH 5 has truly opened the Pandora's Box on who stands to gain and where Arizona is headed.

Bryan
Bryan

With Thomas, it's not IF, it's WHEN, your turn comes up.

NRA Folks, Wake up!!
NRA Folks, Wake up!!

Doubting Thomas, Your thoughtful comment with helpful information is a great public service. We will NOT be voting for Andrew Thomas for all the reasons you mentioned and more. Abuse of power by those who have total immunity should be criminal in itself.

 
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