Three people arrested in Sheldon for five-month-old girl’s death last year

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Lawrence Ruotolo, Brittanee Baker, and Stacie Hurlburt. Photo Courtesy of the O’Brien County Jail.

SHELDON, Iowa (KCAU) – Three people were arrested in Sheldon concerning a five-month-old girl’s death in July 2020.

The O’Brien County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lawrence Ruotolo, 20, and Brittanee Baker, 21, for child endangerment with bodily injury on Thursday and Stacie Hurlburt, 49, for accessory after the fact on Friday.

Court documents said on the morning of July 26, Ruotolo was responsible for taking care of his five-month-old daughter at their home while the baby’s mom, Baker, was asleep in a bedroom when she started to cry and scream.

When Ruotolo couldn’t get her to stop screaming, he lost his temper and assaulted the baby by pushing her face into the floor and “other abusive physical mechanisms.”

Officials reported that the baby sustained a large abrasion to her forehead, bruising on her forehead, inside and outside of both ears, redness on the lower part of her right eye, erythema on her tongue, and bruising along her neck.

The five-month-old baby was taken to the emergency room by Baker and was treated and release. Court documents said DHS and/or law enforcement wasn’t alerted by the hospital staff.

The next day, Ruotolo was taking care of his daughter when she was found unresponsive with no pulse and not breathing. She was taken to the emergency room and then flown to Sioux Falls, where she died days later.

Officials reported that the five-month-girl’s death was determined to have been caused by “a suffocation event of an indeterminate nature.”

Ruotolo, Baker, and Ruotolo’s mother, Hurlburt, all had knowledge of him injuring the baby on July 26.

According to court documents, they all fabricated a story about the five-month-old being injured by a lamp knocked over by cats. The residence was cleaned and re-arranged to prevent and/or minimize DHS involvement.

Both Baker and Hurlburt were also aware of Ruotolo physically harming the baby on May 13, and she still allowed him to have unsupervised care of their daughter.

Officials said Ruotolo and Baker are illicit drug users, and in the months leading up to the baby’s death, his mom provided them with information on how to cheat drug tests.

Baker was released on a $5,000 bond on Thursday, and Ruotolo was released on a $5,000 bond on Friday. Both are set to appear in court on April 13 at 9 a.m. at the O’Brien County Courthouse in Primghar.

Hurlburt was also released on Friday on a $2,000 bond and is set to appear in court on April 6 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Primghar.

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