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Originally published October 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 12, 2005 at 5:16 PM

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Judge dismisses murder charge against 13-year-old baby-sitter

he decision devastated the toddler's family members, some of whom sobbed this morning in court, and was hailed by defense attorneys as an important ruling...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A second-degree murder charge against a 13-year-old babysitter accused of killing a toddler in her care was dismissed this morning, one day after a King County judge ruled half the statements made by the girl to police were taken illegally and could not be used in court.

Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts dismissed the charges with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again.

The decision devastated the toddler's family members, some of whom sobbed this morning in court, and was hailed by defense attorneys as an important ruling in the protection of the rights of juvenile defendants.

"This is a 13-year-old girl who was kept isolated for a day and a half, interrogated up to 10 times by different people, told that she had killed the baby, and ignored twice when she asked for her parents," said defense attorney Bryan Hershman.

Hershman said the judge found that the police had violated the girl's Fifth Amendment rights by not properly reading her Miranda rights and continuing to question her despite her repeated requests for her parents.

"They were clearly interrogating her even though they refused to admit it," he said. "It would be like if the police walked down the street, kicked down the door to your house, found and bag of pot and then went and got a search warrant, and that's not allowed."

"That is so far from anything that's acceptable and the judge knew it."

The Suquamish girl was charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 17 death of 19-month-old Freya Garden, who prosecutors said died of injuries that were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

Charging papers say the toddler stopped breathing for reasons that appeared consistent with shaken-baby syndrome, shortly after the little girl's mother and her boyfriend left the house to run errands.

On Tuesday, Judge Mary Roberts ruled that police had not properly informed the baby-sitter of her rights before she made a series of statements following the death of Freya. " The judge's ruling angered the toddler's great aunt, Filina Nieneyer.

"The bottom line is that there is a 19-month-old girl and she's dead and she's never coming back," Nieneyer said. "Somebody needs to be held accountable."

The teenager had been a friend of the toddler's family and had accompanied the Port Townsend clan to West Seattle as a mother's helper and a baby-sitter for a weekend of family activities in January.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

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