A suburban daycare worker who spent a decade behind bars for allegedly killing an infant in her care is now suing the people she says brought bogus murder charges against her.
Jenni Del Prete says this has been her worst nightmare. She didn’t get to see her kids grow up. She was raped and beaten in prison.
“I was labeled a baby killer,” she says. “I’ve had to live with that for over 10 years and I’ve never harmed anyone.”
Jenni Del Prete of Hickory Hills was supposed to spend 20 years in prison for first degree murder after she was convicted of shaking a 3 and a half-month old baby to death in 2002. Now, new evidence uncovered by Northwestern University students shows there might not have been a crime in the first place.
Through an open records request, students got a hold of a letter that was not turned over to defense attorneys during Del Prete’s trial. The letter suggests Romeoville police and the medical examiner in the case knew the baby had possibly died from natural or accidental causes – and perhaps wasn’t shaken at daycare. In fact, medical testing suggested the baby had been injured weeks before.
Given that new evidence, Del Prete was released from prison in 2014. Her conviction in Will County was vacated and overturned.
Now she is suing claiming Romeoville police and the village of Plainfield fabricated and suppressed medical evidence and reports and conspired to convict her of a murder she did not commit.
“What the police did was suppress a letter which from another doctor, a different doctor, who expressed doubts who explained that A. This wasn’t necessarily shaken baby and B. It didn’t necessarily happen immediately before the child went into distress which was when she was in Jenni’s care,” Del Prete’s attorney John Loevy said.
“Nothing can compensate for the tragedy that we all went through,” Del Prete said. “But I’m hoping that we can get some justice and I can be proud to be in America and know that although we can’t get our time back that we missed, I would just like to feel like I was acknowledged.”
Del Prete says she wants her case to be an example for other women. Her attorneys say there was a hysteria about shaken baby syndrome years ago and many innocent daycare providers went to prison.
WGN News reached out to the Village of Plainfield and the Village of Romeoville for comment. The Village of Romeoville says they are confident their police officers acted properly. In a statement they said,
The Village has not been served with any documents pertaining to the Del Prete case, however, we are aware of the pending litigation and have full confidence that our offices acted properly and within the law.
Plainfield did not return the request for comment.