A Palauan young man Albert Omenged Debelbot and his wife have been imprisoned for the last 12 years unjustly in Georgia, USA after being accused of murdering their 3-day old daughter by forceful blows to the head.
They were arrested after they brought their 3 day old baby to the hospital when she began showing unusual symptoms. She died a few hours after she was brought to the hospital. They had just brought their newborn home 2 days after she was born.
They were held in custody for nearly 2 years waiting for trial. A 3-day trial was held and they were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. They have been in prison for the last 12 years.
Their conviction was based on a testimony of the State assistant medical examiner whose opinion is based on an autopsy report. The State gave no evidence tying the couple to their daughter’s death and the couple’s lawyer did not offer any alternative explanation or evidence or witnesses on how the baby died.
Wisconsin Innocence Project who took over the defense of Debelbot and his wife made a motion for new trial saying the couple’s lawyer misrepresented them. They brought in four experts to testify on their behalf.
The experts all testified that the 3-day old baby died of “in utero stroke with consequent bleeding exacerbated by a rough delivery” and was not murdered by anyone.
The four medical experts were Dr. Peter Dehnel, a licensed board-certified pediatrician with 33 years of experience in examining and treating newborns in Minnesota and serves as faculty at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Julie Mack, a graduate of Harvard Medical School with completed pediatric radiology residency at Children’s Hospital in Dallas, has been practicing pediatric radiology residency since 1994 and is board certified in pediatric radiology and publishes research on anatomy and physiology of the membranes and veins draining the brain. The late Dr. John Plunkett, a practicing forensic pathologist in Minnesota for over 30 years, board certified in anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology, has performed over 200 autopsies of children under the age of two. Dr. Daniel Sahlein, graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, completed additional training at Columbia University Medical Center and New York University of Medical Center, and is one of the only 20 doctors in America board certified in three specialties – neurology, neuroradiology and diagnostic radiology, runs a highly active pediatric diagnostic radiology practice in Indianapolis with privileges at Riley Children’s Hospital. All the experts testified that the 3-day old baby suffered a stroke in the womb which caused blood clots which led to her death 3 days after she was born.
The judge who heard the motion for new trial did NOT believe the experts and denied the motion for new trial. In February this year, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the decision and vacated the conviction and ordered new trial.
Albert Debelbot was released from State prison and is in Muscogee County Jail with bail set at $85,000 pending new trial and the DA for Muscogee County has announced that she will retry the case despite Georgia Supreme Court saying the government evidence is very thin.
Debelbot will be represented in the new trial pro bono by the top rated Civil Defense and Criminal Defense New York Attorney Earl Ward.
Albert Debelbot from Palau, enlisted in the military in 2004 at 19 years of age and served with distinction in Irag during the war. He met his wife who was also in the military in South Korea. He married Ashley Dion in February 2008 and they moved to Columbus, Georgia with Ashley several months pregnant, to their new home close to Fort Benning where Albert Debelbot was stationed.
Ashely was due in mid-June but went into labor early on May 29th. They were rushed to the hospital and after 13 to 14 hours of labor, Ashely gave birth to a baby girl they named McKenzy Debelbot.
Hospital reported that Ashely had a “rough, atypical delivery”. Hospital records also showed that McKenzy (baby) had not been feeling well and her head had “unusual increase” but the doctors discharged both Ashely and her baby two days later.
Both parents were excited and happy about the baby that they have anxiously prepared for but about 12 hours after they brought their baby home, she began showing unusual symptoms and they rushed her back to the hospital around 1:30 in the morning.
While at the hospital, the doctors took the baby to check her and then the military police arrived and started interrogating both couples. Shortly afterward they were informed that their daughter was dead.
Next day, they were taken again into questioning, each lasted about 5 to 6 hours. 32 hours after their daughter was pronounced death, they were charged with murder and their bail was set for $75,000 each.
Albert Debelbot and his wife remained in jail for nearly 17 months until their trial which lasted 3 days. They were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Their case was taken on by Wisconsin Innocence Project who appealed the case to Georgia Supreme Court. Georgia Supreme Court reversed the judge decision, vacated the conviction and allowed for new trial.