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Jury acquits Chattaroy woman of killing 5-year-old nephew

UPDATED: Tue., June 19, 2018

After being freed from three years of living as the accused killer of a boy she rescued from a life of foster homes, Cynthia L. Khaleel sat at the court table Tuesday and sobbed.

The Chattaroy woman, whom even prosecutors described as a “supermom,” turned and hugged her father-in-law before falling into the grasp of her husband, Ian Khaleel Jr., as the crowd walked out of the courtroom.

“I’m just happy that the verdict came back the way that it did and that the jury considered the evidence, regarding these charges, just wasn’t there,” defense attorney Bevan Maxey said. “She has dedicated her life to her children. There was no reason for her to have done this.”

Khaleel, 31, was charged with causing the fractured skull that killed her adoptive 5-year-old nephew Gary Blanton III in 2015. Investigators charged Khaleel almost exclusively based on medical reviews that determined the fracture was too severe to have been caused by a fall from climbing on a crib.

“I know that we have forensic pathologists … that make certain determinations. I can’t change that,” Maxey said. “These types of short falls, unfortunately, can be fatal. That’s what occurred here.”

Jurors worked for about three hours Monday before they went home. They continued deliberations Tuesday morning before reaching a verdict at about 2:45 p.m.

Khaleel did not comment following the two-week trial. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Deric Martin and Spokane County Sheriff’s detective Mike Drapeau also declined to comment.

But in the hallway as he left, Martin turned to Drapeau and said, “We’ll get ’em next time, I guess.”

The trial ends a three-year criminal case that started after Dr. John Howard performed an autopsy that found one of the worst fractured skulls he claimed to have seen in a child in roughly 31 years of performing death examinations.

Howard, who rotates annually as Spokane County Medical Examiner, earlier testified the back of Gary Blanton’s skull had a complex fracture similar to being run over by a car tire, but not as severe as a child who had fallen five stories.

Based on Howard’s determination that the child died as a result of a homicide, Drapeau charged Khaleel even though he could not find anything at the scene that suggested Gary had suffered an assault or prior abuse.

“I don’t believe there has ever been any evidence that she actually abused any of the children,” Maxey said.

Khaleel spent thousands of dollars in legal fees to reunite Gary, his younger brother Skylar and their half-sister Destiny. The boys’ father, Gary Blanton Jr., was killed in 2012 and their mother, Leslie Blanton, died in 2014 from complications of a drug addiction.

Gary had bounced to four different foster homes before Khaleel successfully brought him in 2014 to live in her Chattaroy home with her three biological children. After she was charged, Khaleel lost custody of Skylar and Destiny but retained custody of her three sons.

In his court arguments, Martin, the prosecutor, claimed Khaleel portrayed herself as a “supermom,” but the stresses of caring for six children became too much, and he alleged that Khaleel lost her temper before attacking Gary on April 17, 2015.

“She didn’t portray herself as anything other than what she was,” Maxey said. “She didn’t do the things she did for appearance’s sake. That’s what she wanted to do for these children.”

Asked if she will attempt to regain custody of Skylar and Destiny, Maxey said he didn’t know.

“Right now she needs to concentrate on getting her life back together after this long process,” he said, “and enjoy her children and her family … and, hopefully, get some needed sleep.”

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