A court has reversed the conviction of a Park City mother sentenced to eight years for contributing to her 11-year-old son’s death by failing to give him proper medical care after his heart transplant.
Jennifer B. Stroud, 42, of Park City, was charged with involuntary manslaughter of a family member and two counts of child endangerment causing death.
The charges were filed in January 2017 after her son, Jason Stroud, died on September 11, 2016.
A now-deleted GoFundMe account created by Jennifer said that Jason had received a heart transplant on May 6, 2012, at Children’s Wisconsin Hospital in Milwaukee when the boy was seven years old.
He had undergone eight open-heart surgeries and 20 procedures before he received the transplant, the GoFundMe page said.
Jennifer Stroud claimed that Jason’s heart was in “complete rejection/failure” due to coronary artery disease after rare genes were found in the donor heart he received.
The family switched hospitals in 2015 and were supposed to make regular visits to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was notified after the family missed several doctor’s appointments between December 2015 and August 2016.
Jason was hospitalized in August 2016 and died in September 2016 at the age of 11.
He was a sixth-grader at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee.
Prosecutors said after the arrest of Jennifer Stroud and Jason’s father, David Stroud, that the boy’s body began rejecting the donor heart because the daily medication that he needed was not given to him by his parents.
David Stroud pleaded guilty in 2019 to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to five years in prison, court records show.
A jury trial for Jennifer Stroud began in May 2022 after being delayed by the pandemic.
Pharmacist Scott Waggoner, who was called as a witness, testified that it is critical for heart transplant patients to take two medications twice a day, every day, to combat organ rejection, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“If you miss two or three doses a week — or even one a week — you’re starting to play with fire,” Waggner said.
The jury heard from 13 witnesses called by prosecutors that included medical experts who explained how Stroud missing numerous appointments and failing to give medication led to Jason’s heart failure and death.
Several social workers and medical professionals testified that Jennifer Stroud was offered free transportation and lodging in order to assist her in attending the appointments.
State witnesses also testified that the medications and testing procedures were free of charge to the family.
The jury, after approximately an hour of deliberations, found Jennifer Stroud guilty on all three counts.
Eric Kalata, the lead trial prosecutor on the case said the evidence in the case covered “months of failure” on the part of Jennifer Stroud.
“Both parents knew that Jason’s transplant required lifetime care, and they knew the risks of failing him. They were reckless with his life, and we hope these verdicts start a path toward justice for Jason,” Kalata said.
Jennifer Stroud was sentenced in July 2022 to eight years in prison.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Daniel Shanes expressed how not only did Stroud fail her civic duties to society, but she also failed her moral duties as a mother.
Stroud appealed her verdicts after arguing they were legally inconsistent and that she was entitled to a new trial.
The Illinois Second District Appellate Court issued a ruling earlier this week siding with Stroud and reversing her conviction and ordering a new trial.
The court said the mental state for child endangerment is “knowledge” and the mental state for involuntary manslaughter is “recklessness.”
Stroud cannot be convicted of all three charges against her because the mental states of the two different offenses are mutually inconsistent, the court ruled.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said he believes the jury was correct in finding Stroud guilty of both offenses because the two charges alleged different periods of time and different acts or omissions over those periods of time.
“Ms. Stroud criminally failed to provide medicine to her son and knowingly missed critical medical appointments. She is guilty on both counts, and the different time periods make the guilty verdicts consistent,” Rinehart said.
The state’s attorney said his office would appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court and ask that Stroud remain in custody since the appellate court did not question her guilt.