Convicted Day Care Worker Released from Prison

Convicted of violently shaking a baby who later died, Jennifer Del Prete continues to maintain her innocence.

Jennifer Del Prete. Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections
Jennifer Del Prete. Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections
After nearly a decade in prison, a former child care worker convicted in the "shaken baby" death of a toddler at a Romeoville daycare walked free on Wednesday.

Federal Judge Matthew Kennelly granted Jennifer Del Prete's release as the 43-year-old waits for her appeals to be heard.

Del Prete has maintained her innocence in the death of 14-month-old Isabella Zielinski, who died in 2003. In 2005, Del Prete was sentenced to the minimum 20 years after being convicted of violently shaking Isabella while caring for her in December 2002. 

Kennelly agreed last week to allow Del Prete to be released after new evidence came to light that could point to her innocence. 

In January, Kennelly issued a 97-page ruling saying that new evidence in the case called into question the controversial science behind "shaken baby" syndrome that led to Del Prete's conviction.

Kennelly laid out conditions for Del Prete's release, including forbidding her from obtaining a passport, possessing a firearm or being the caregiver of any child ages 3 or younger. Del Prete must also notify the probation office if any child age 3 or younger moves into her residence in Hickory Hills, and is barred from attempting to influence any witnesses or potential witnesses in her case.

She is due in court May 7, and would have to pay a $50,000 bond if she fails to appear.

It could take years for Del Prete's appeals to make their way through the court system.

Upon her release Wednesday, Del Prete was greeted by her daughter, sister, attorney and individuals from Northwestern University, according to NBC Chicago. 

Undergraduates with Northwestern's Medill Justice Project have been working on Del Prete's case, and last week said they have discovered a letter written by a Romeoville police detective casting doubt on a pathologist's findings that Del Prete shook baby Isabella.


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