New petition drive seeks prosecution in child’s death
Marshall Helmberger
Caroline Medicine-Chavez

REGIONAL—Advocates for prosecution in the apparent “shaken baby” death of Caroline Medicine-Chavez have begun a petition effort through the website, that urges St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin to release an indictment against the suspect in the death of this two year-old girl in Virginia, Minn., on March 22, 2012.

Marjean Winstead, of Wilmington, N.C., who created the petition on Monday, Dec. 9, has set a goal of 5,000 signatures. More than 750 people had already signed the petition within the first two days.

Winstead, who is no relation to the family, said she read the recent news reports about Caroline’s death and the lack of prosecution and contacted her family, offering to help. “I have a two year-old son, so this story really touched me. I could tell from their online posts that this family is desperate, so I couldn’t walk away,” Winstead said. “I’m hoping this at least starts a discussion on the case and they are able to get some closure.”

Winstead said she plans to deliver the petition to County Attorney Rubin and to criminal division head Gary Bjorklund as soon as possible.

The petition is part of a renewed push by family and friends of the Medicine-Chavez family, who are seeking justice in the death of Caroline, who was alone in a Virginia apartment with Russell Johnson, the former boyfriend of Caroline’s mother, at the time of her fatal injury. Medical records indicate that the child died from shaken baby syndrome, an injury stemming from the violent shaking of a small child. A doctor who treated Caroline termed her injury “non-accidental head trauma.”

The Virginia police conducted a brief investigation, and did interview Johnson. Police later found that evidence at the apartment did not match the story that Johnson told investigators.

Caroline had been rushed to the Virginia hospital three weeks before her death, after another head injury left her temporarily non-responsive. Johnson was alone with the child at the time of that injury as well.

Despite a strong circumstantial case, the Virginia police closed the case in October, 2012, without filing charges against Johnson.

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