from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, Daniel P.
Tucker appeals her conviction for child endangerment
resulting in death. AFFIRMED.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Nerissa N. Jennisch,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Zachary Miller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., Doyle, J., and Scott, S.J.
Tucker appeals her conviction for child endangerment
resulting in death. She argues the evidence is insufficient
to prove she knowingly acted in a manner that created a
substantial risk to the decedent's safety. We find the
evidence is sufficient to support her conviction, and we
Background Facts and Proceedings
January 2014, Tucker lived in Ottumwa with W.E, who was born
in January 2011. Tucker met W.E.'s mother in Chicago,
and Tucker agreed to temporarily act as caretaker for W.E.
Even though Tucker and W.E. were unrelated, she referred to
W.E. as her nephew.
series of interviews with investigators, Tucker said she left
W.E. with her friend Latisha Johnson for a few hours on
Sunday, January 19, 2014. Johnson, although uncertain of the
date, testified W.E. was "real quiet" when she
watched him but he ate that afternoon and otherwise seemed
normal at the time. In her interview, Tucker said she took
W.E. to a park later that day where he fell down a series of
concrete steps. Tucker said W.E. cried and complained that
his "tummy" hurt after the fall and she took him
home. She noticed a scrape on his eye and a bump on his head
from the fall. She said on Monday he stayed in bed and
complained his tummy hurt, but she thought "it was
something that I could handle." That Monday, she
scheduled an appointment at their usual medical clinic for
W.E. to be seen on Thursday, January 23.
told investigators that when W.E. woke on Tuesday, January
21, she made him stand up and move around, at which point he
began throwing up "brown, red vomit" that appeared
to contain blood. She said she called the medical clinic and
asked for an earlier appointment, but they said they could
not see him sooner and she should take him to the emergency
room. Tucker's phone showed she called the clinic at 8:07
that morning. Her phone also showed she received a call from
and exchanged five texts with an unidentified person around
10:00 that morning. She sent one text at 10:04 that said,
"Im home." Investigators later found receipts
inside a shopping bag in Tucker's home. The receipts show
purchases from two separate Ottumwa stores on Tuesday morning
at 9:38 and 9:48. The items purchased include bath tissue,
moist wipes, baking soda, and ointment. The items were
purchased using debit cards that match the last four digits
of cards in Tucker's name. She said she tried cleaning
the vomit that morning. Investigators later found several
stains that appeared to be brown vomit throughout her home,
including on carpet and hard flooring in several locations,
on tissues in the trash, and on unwashed children's
bedding inside a washing machine. Some of the stains on the
carpet were covered with baking soda, and there was a mop
with a bucket and water in the kitchen.
noon on Tuesday, January 21, Tucker brought W.E. into the
emergency room in Ottumwa. He had minor, inefficient
breathing and no pulse. Medical staff performed CPR for
forty-five minutes before he regained a pulse, at which point
they arranged to transport him to the University of Iowa
Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City for advanced care.
At 2:38, Tucker told her boyfriend via text message, "if
im arrested please come iowa city." W.E. remained in the
Ottumwa emergency room for a couple of hours and showed some
improvement before being airlifted to UIHC later that
afternoon. During the flight to Iowa City, he lost his pulse
around 3:55. Staff continued providing emergency care in the
air and at UIHC. He never regained a pulse at UIHC, and he
was pronounced dead at 4:45 that afternoon.
emergency physician at UIHC noted bruises and abrasions
across his head, which led him to be concerned W.E. had
suffered a head injury. The physician also noted W.E.'s
bruises were different colors in different locations, which
suggested they resulted from non-accidental injuries
occurring at multiple times. On January 23, a full autopsy
was performed, and W.E.'s cause of death was determined
to be "[a]cute peritonitis due to duodenal perforation
due to blunt force injuries of the abdomen." Peritonitis
is an infection of the lining of the abdomen, which typically
results from an abdominal injury. W.E.'s duodenum, a part
of the small intestine, had a hole that allowed his bowel
contents to enter his abdominal cavity. W.E. had internal
bruising that suggested his abdominal injuries resulted from
a single impact. Dr. Dennis Firchau, who performed the
autopsy at UIHC, determined W.E.'s death was a homicide,
opining, "the abdominal injuries that resulted in the
peritonitis were highly unlikely to be from an accidental
cause and were most likely the result of an inflicted
interviewed Tucker multiple times in the days and weeks
following W.E.'s death. Police eventually arrested her in
Utah in December 2015 and charged her with first-degree
murder and child endangerment resulting in death. After
waiving her right to a jury trial, the matter was tried to
the district court on January 3, ...