Mom in child death case sues county staff
ALAMOSA — Krystal Voss, now known as Krystal O’Connell, 44, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday against those involved in the initial investigation of her 19-month-old son Kryan Voss’ death in 2003.
In November 2004 a jury convicted Voss of felony child abuse resulting in death, and Voss was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed Voss' conviction.
Citing ineffective trial counsel Chief District Judge Pattie Swift last year granted a new trial for Voss, and District Judge Martin Gonzales subsequently scheduled the new trial for January of this year. In September 12th Judicial District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen asked Judge Gonzales to dismiss Voss’ case because the DA did not have the resources to proceed with a new trial at this time, in addition to the evidence having deteriorated with time.
On Monday Voss, who has since remarried and is now O’Connell, filed a lawsuit for indeterminate compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees on the basis her “constitutional rights were violated and she suffered injuries, including but not limited to loss of liberty, great mental anguish, humiliation, degradation, economic damages, physical and emotional pain and suffering, and other grievous and continuing injuries and damages.”
Specifically named in the suit are Harry Alejo, who initially investigated the Voss child’s traumatic head injuries (which subsequently led to his death) through the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office and Marcia Tuggle, who was at the time a caseworker with the Alamosa County Department of Human Services and is now retired. Also named by virtue of their jurisdiction over the sheriff’s office and county staff are the Alamosa County board of county commissioners and Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson, who was not the sheriff at the time.
Voss/O’Connell served about half of her prison sentence in addition to four years on electronic monitoring, which her attorneys alleged was “for an offense that she did not commit and which was not a crime at all but a tragic accident.”
Representing her in the lawsuit is the law firm of Loevy & Loevy, whose attorneys allege that Alejo and Tuggle “fabricated a false confession from O’Connell and withheld evidence that would have helped clear O’Connell of criminal suspicion.”
Alejo and Tuggle both testified during Voss’ trial that she admitted to shaking the child and slamming him on the bed, and medical experts at trial testified that the injuries they saw were consistent with that account.
During her trial Voss denied shaking or slamming her son and said her written statement indicating that account was given under pressure.
Voss attorneys alleged that the injuries Kyran Voss sustained that led to his death were suffered as a result of a fall from the shoulders of Patrick Ramirez, Voss’ former lover who was watching the child at the time. In appellate hearings, experts testified that a fall from Ramirez’ shoulders could have caused the fatal injuries. Ramirez testified during Krystal Voss’ trial that he lied for Voss to take the blame for her son’s injuries but that Voss admitted to causing the injuries. Ramirez served a year in prison on a tampering with evidence charge in connection with this case.
Voss/McConnell’s attorneys allege that Alejo manipulated Ramirez into making false statements against O’Connell, and as a result of the alleged misconduct of Alejo and Tuggle, O’Connell was wrongfully convicted and spent 10 years “in the prime of her life” in prison.
“It was a traumatizing, nightmarish experience for Ms. O’Connell to have her child hospitalized in a coma after this accident,” said one of her attorneys, Elizabeth Wang of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. “After several sleepless days and nights, Officer Alejo browbeat the disoriented woman, concocted a false statement for her to sign, and fabricated police reports falsely claiming that she had confessed.”
Her attorneys added, “Ms. O’Connell, her will overborne, felt that she had no choice but to write the confession that Defendant Alejo fabricated.”
McConnell’s attorneys’ allege that the conduct of the defendants was malicious, resulting in damages. They do not ask for a specific sum of monetary damages but ask that the court rule in her favor and award compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees.
Newmyer-Olsen responded to Monday’s announcement regarding the lawsuit: “Ms. Voss was neither exonerated nor acquitted. Her conviction was overturned over 14 years after the death of her son due to a finding that her trial counsel was ineffective, not based on anyone else’s malfeasance. The Office of the District Attorney made a decision to dismiss the case for a variety of reasons, none of which included a determination that Ms. Voss was wrongly convicted at the first trial.”