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Day-Care Operator Convicted

July 3, 2000 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A former day care operator has been convicted of killing two infants who were in her care and sentenced to two life prison terms.

It was the third trial for Gail Cutro; a conviction in her first trial was overturned and the second trial ended in mistrial.

Prosecutors said the case was an example of child abuse called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition in which a care provider harms children to get attention.

Jurors on Sunday found Cutro, 40, guilty of homicide by child abuse in the deaths of Parker Colson and Ashlan Daniel, both 4 months old. Prosecutors had sought murder convictions, but the jury settled on the lesser charge.

The jury acquitted Cutro of charges that she injured a third 4-month-old.

Prosecutor Johnny Gasser told jurors that Cutro either suffocated or severely shook the infants at the day care center she operated at her home in suburban Irmo.

Cutro showed no emotion when the verdicts were read.

``You know my mother’s innocent! You do!″ Cutro’s 15-year-old daughter, Lara, cried out after court was adjourned.

Parker’s father, Gary Colson, asked Circuit Court Judge James Williams Jr. to sentence Cutro to life.

``This woman murdered my son, she murdered my baby boy,″ Colson said. ``This will be the only boy that I would’ve ever had, and I please ask the court to give her life.″

Jurors started deliberations Saturday and twice told the judge they were having trouble agreeing. On Sunday, they deliberated for an additional five hours before reaching their verdict.

Cutro was first convicted of Ashlan’s death in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison, but the state Supreme Court overturned that conviction two years ago, citing an error by the trial judge. She was tried again last year but jurors could not agree on a verdict.

``It’s been a road that’s been filled with a lot of valleys and not too many peaks, and today we are at the top of the peak,″ Gasser said Sunday. ``Thirty-five out of 36 jurors (in the three trials) have found that she’s a baby killer, and she’s going to prison.″