A Franklin County, Tenn., jury on Friday found a Whitwell woman guilty of reckless homicide and aggravated assault in the 2015 beating death of a 5-year-old.
Holly Rutledge was 30 when she was arrested on Feb, 5, 2016, on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of Lucas Dillon. The jury began deliberations Thursday night and reached a verdict mid-afternoon Friday. She was not found guilty on the first-degree murder charge.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain, who works out of 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor's office, said the state rested its case Wednesday afternoon. The defense's witnesses included a forensic pathologist and a biomedical engineer.
The boy's father, Nathan Dillon, left the house around 6:30 a.m. the day of the incident and Lucas was fine, but at 10:42 a.m., Rutledge called 911. The boy was unresponsive and ambulance personnel arrived to find he wasn't breathing and had no heartbeat, Strain said of trial testimony.
According to testimony, Rutledge told investigators that after Lucas' father left, Lucas had played and Rutledge gave the boy a toaster strudel and something to drink, Strain said. Lucas told her he was sleepy and lay down.
When emergency medical officials arrived at the home they found Lucas lying on the couch unresponsive, Strain said.
Lucas was airlifted to a Chattanooga hospital, where doctors found a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury. Doctors there said the trauma was not accidental, Strain said of testimony. Lucas died the next day.
Rutledge, meanwhile, returned home before law enforcement got there and was there for a period of time. No instrument believed to have been used to harm the boy was found by law enforcement, Strain said of testimony.
Defense witnesses argued Lucas could have fallen and struck his head on a coffee table or floor in the living room while playing and jumping on the couch out of view of Rutledge. Rutledge told authorities she didn't know what happened and the next thing she knew Lucas couldn't be awakened, Strain said.
Doctors testifying for the state said Lucas was injured badly enough he probably was not conscious or wasn't conscious long and was likely in severe pain, Strain said. Strain said one question the jury had to consider is how the boy got on the couch with such dire injuries.
"The jury obviously took a long time to consider the proof. They were out six or seven hours," Strain said Friday after the verdict. "We're satisfied that they held Holly Rutledge accountable for killing that child."
Rutledge's attorney, Keith Davis, was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment on the verdict.
Rutledge faces a sentencing hearing at 1 p.m. CDT on Aug. 8. The sentencing range for aggravated assault is three to six years, and the sentencing range for reckless homicide is two to four years.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.