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Bloomington mother in missing baby case is acquitted based on her mental condition

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The whereabouts of the body of an infant who was reported missing in February remained a mystery Thursday after the infant’s mother was acquitted of concealing a death, based on her mental condition at the time the baby died.

A stipulated bench trial in McLean County in which the state and defense agreed on the evidence and facts in the case against Kimberlee Burton ended with Judge Casey Costigan finding the 29-year-old woman not guilty by reason of insanity.

Burton, dressed in a red jail uniform, sat next to her public defender, Brian McEldowney, for the 40-minute bench trial. Speaking in a soft voice, she answered questions from the judge acknowledging that she understood the proceedings. After the hearing, she smiled as she hugged her grandmother who attended the trial.

Burton was charged in February with concealing a death after authorities could not locate 7-month-old Zaraz Walker at the family’s home on Bloomington’s southside. A search for the baby began Feb. 12 when the child’s father received a call from the 5- and 6-year-old children saying they were home alone. The father sent his mother to pick up the youngsters and later called Bloomington police to ask them to check on the infant who was not present when the other children were picked up.

At the time of the search, Burton was in the McLean County jail on retail theft charges.

In a statement of facts read by prosecutor Mary Koll, the state said Burton initially denied to police that she had any children. In a video call with her cousin recorded by the jail on Feb. 15, Burton admitted, “my baby passed away two weeks ago after grandma.” She went on to disclose she found the baby with blue lips after a night of sleeping between her legs, said the statement.

“I didn’t want to deal with no one,” Burton told her relative in an apparent explanation for not taking the child to a hospital or reporting the death, said Koll.

The mother, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and post-trauma stress disorder, said she left the baby “out here, by my house,” referring to nearby Evergreen Cemetery. After an exhaustive search by police and volunteers, the child’s body was not located.

Burton was initially found mentally unfit to stand trial and spent several months in residential treatment before she was restored to fitness. The not guilty by reason of insanity finding is based upon her mental condition at the time of the child’s death.

Costigan explained to Burton that she will returned to a state mental health facility for an evaluation. A Dec. 29 hearing is set for a review of that evaluation. Based on recommendations for her treatment, Burton may be held in state custody up to six years, the maximum sentence she could have received if convicted. She will receive credit for the time she has been in custody and she is eligible for day-for-day credit.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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