SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) -- A foster mother who pleaded guilty to killing a 2-year-old child in her care will serve one year in jail and be on probation for 14 years, a Duchesne County judge ruled on Wednesday, July 29. Lisa Jo Vanderlinden was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, the Utah Attorney General's office confirmed.
Prosecutors with the AG's office negotiated a plea deal, amending charges against Vanderlinden from aggravated murder to child abuse homicide. Both are first-degree felonies. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the plea deal allowed the state to pursue a first-degree felony charge "minus the cost of trial and without having to traumatize other children as witnesses."
The 2-year-old was found dead at Vanderlinden's home on Aug. 5, 2018. Medical examiners determined the cause of death was due to "significant internal injuries" and blunt force trauma. Vanderlinden was also fostering the child's 1-year-old sibling at the time of the child's death.
At the time, Vanderlinden told investigators she was frustrated with the child's behavior and that he vomited multiple times that night. A family member told police they heard a loud bang from the bathroom while Vanderlinden was bathing and changing the boy, after which he wasn't acting normal and would not walk. The next morning, he was found dead.
"The Court absolutely could have sentenced Ms. Vanderlinden to serve five years to life, consistent with what we sought and what the pre-sentencing report recommended. Probation for a first degree felony is almost unheard of. We are at a loss as to why the Court ruled the way it did," the Utah Attorney General's Office said.