BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - A Washington County judge has declared a mistrial for Danielle Connor after the jury declared itself "hopelessly hung" Wednesday afternoon following nearly seven hours of deliberation.
Following closing arguments that morning, the decision was handed over to jury at 10 a.m. to determine the fate of the 24-year-old Dewey mother, arrested last January and charged with child neglect following the severe scalding of her 16-month old girl.
The announcement came out of the jury room two hours after the judge sent the jury back to the room for a verdict after jurors declared themselves hung at 3 p.m.
After declaring the mistrial, District Judge Curtis Delapp set the case for a Sept. 19 status docket hearing and ordered Connor returned to Washington County jail custody.
Connor's defense attorney Mark Kane said of the 12-member jury, eight said she was guilty and four said not guilty.
Dewey police arrested her following an investigation that began on Jan. 30 when the Wichita Police Department contacted them about a toddler whose burns appeared suspicious nature, according to the affidavit.
A detective told police Connor's alleged story the burns resulted from a spilled pot of boiling water did not match the injuries as the injuries appeared to be submersion burns.
Reportedly, when Dewey investigators spoke with Connor and confronted her with the evidence, she reportedly told them she had placed the girl in a bathtub with a 3-year-old child in water that “was not hot.”
Connor said she left the children for 10 minutes when she heard crying at which time the 3-year-old found her and tried to tell her something she said she could not understand. She said she thought it was about argument over a toy.
She told investigators when she came back to the bathroom and noticed the hot water was on and the younger girl was screaming, she immediately lifted the child from the water and “the skin fell off (the 16-month-old's) legs.”
It was following this interview on Jan. 31 police arrested her and the 3-year-old was taken into Department of Human Services custody.
During closing arguments Wednesday, the prosecution team re-iterated to the jury how Dewey Police Investigator Tim Stringer who testified Tuesday said the water coming out of the tub's faucet heated to 140 degrees in 40 seconds.
Jared Sigler of the Washington District Attorney's Office recalled how Connor, according to her testimony, ignored the screams from her toddler daughter, Alona, thinking they were only about a toy taken by the 3-year-old Brooke who was also in the tub, and closed the laundry room door.
“I don't know how that could be after you hear that kind of scream,” he said.
Sigler then emphasized Connor's answer when on the witness stand Tuesday when he asked her of her guilt.
“I asked her 'Are you guilty of child neglect?' and what did she say? 'Yes,'” he said, saying she admitted before the court she left her children unattended in the tub.
“I am asking you to hold her accountable because everything that happened January 29 was completely preventable.”
“This case is not all about Danielle Connor. It's about Alona Conner too. Think about that,” he continued.
“Kids need their moms. Alona needed her mom and I submit to you that on January 29, her mommy wasn't there.”
Connor's attorney Mark Kane then taking to the floor told the jury their decision is to decide if Connor is a criminal and if she needed to go to prison.
He recalled testimony by three different doctors, all who said Alona bore no signs of abuse, disease or medical issues and how investigators said they found the house tidy and child-proofed.
“This means Danielle was a good mother and wanted to protect the children,” said Kane, calling attention to the fact she placed Alona in a tub seat.
Kane recalled to the jury how after first lying to the medical personnel and police, Connor came to police voluntarily and took responsibility. Kane added that Connor lied not to protect herself, but to protect Brooke.
He then recounted testimony by Connor's boyfriend and her babysitter who both said Connor is a good mother.
“Those are all things that show she is not a criminal,” he said. “I want you to find Connor not guilty.
“What do children need? They need a mommy. She is a good mommy. It was an accident.”
Sigler then addressing the jury in his final argument told the jury, “If you find Connor not guilty because you don't want to call her a criminal, you are disregarding the evidence,” he said, saying Connor didn't do what she did with bad intentions.
“She is a criminal because she didn't do what she should do as a mother,” said Sigler. “The heart of the matter is she didn't supervise her children.”
“She is not a bad mom, I don't have to prove that she is a bad mother. She left the kids in the tub. What is more dangerous than leaving a child in a tub? Leaving two kids in the tub,” Sigler told the jury. “We don't do that as responsible parents.”