LEADVILLE, Colorado - Lake County social services took a 7-month-old boy away from his parents, placing him with his aunt, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for abusing the child so seriously that he went blind.
Shawna Nacke, of Leadville, is the child's aunt. The jury that convicted her agreed with prosecutors that she shook the baby, leaving it blind. She tried to blame the injuries on the child's biological father, who had been alone with the child the previous evening.
The conviction and sentencing was one of the final cases of Mark Hurlbert's tenure as district attorney.
"It is a significant amount of time for what she did. Ultimately the child may recover, but it'll be a long process," Hurlbert said.
The boy was shaken enough that he suffered "significant" brain swelling and had to have surgery to relieve the pressure, Hurlbert said.
The jury was out less than two hours before coming back with guilty verdicts on all three felony counts. Nacke could have received up to 32 years in prison.
Deputy District Attorneys Colleen Clark and Mark Franklin prosecuted the case.
This was only the second Fifth Judicial District grand jury convened since the 1960s, Hurlbert said.
Lake County District Court Judge Karen Romeo convened the 12-person grand jury from around the Fifth Judicial District's four counties: Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek.
They heard five days of testimony before indicting Nacke on three felony counts.
A grand jury is a group of citizens who hears evidence. They can subpoena witnesses and documents and determine if there is enough to indict the defendant.
Nacke's was one of two cases Hurlbert and his prosecutors took to a grand jury. The other was a Silverthorne homicide case, which they also won.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.