Babysitter not guilty of Limestone manslaughter

Posted Sept. 17, 2008, at 4:21 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — A Superior Court jury deliberated for 2½ hours Wednesday before finding baby sitter Heather Fortin not guilty of manslaughter in the death of 20-month-old Teairra Leathers last year.

Fortin, 25, of Limestone, gasped, fell into the arms of a male friend and began to cry when the jury forewoman gave Justice Kevin Cuddy the verdict shortly before 4 p.m., concluding the two-day trial. Fortin’s attorney, Jon C. Gale, said he was satisfied with the jury’s decision.

“Justice is served,” Gale said Wednesday.

“There were a number of problems with the state’s case,” Gale added. “In the beginning, they worked under the belief that the evidence would show that my client committed the crime and so failed to satisfactorily investigate other suspects when it didn’t.”

Fortin declined to comment. The baby’s mother, Rena Leathers, was in court but left before she could be interviewed.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson conceded that his case was flawed.

“We always said it was going to be extremely difficult to get a conviction because the case was based entirely upon circumstantial evidence,” Benson said after the verdict.

Fortin was indicted for manslaughter nine days after accepting 20-month-old Teairra into her care for the evening of June 18. According to Fortin and several witnesses, she called 911 within 15 minutes of receiving the child because the little girl fell unconscious.

Leathers died the next day at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. State police arrested Fortin, who has constantly maintained her innocence, on June 27.

The verdict will likely leave Teairra’s death a mystery for all time, Benson said.

“We have prosecuted the one person against whom we had any evidence,” he said. “There is no evidence pointing to any other person.”

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