Judge Robert Burns of Wyandotte County dismissed indictments Friday against three individuals and two corporate affiliates of Schlitterbahn, the company that built the 17-story Verruckt water slide that decapitated a 10-year-old boy in Kansas City, Kan., in 2016.
In his decision, Burns sided with defense attorneys claiming that Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt ‘tainted’ the grand jury by showing prejudicial evidence — including clips from reality TV, misleading expert testimony and references to a previous and unrelated death — resulting in criminal charges for several Schlitterbahn employees and associates.
“The court has grave doubts as to whether the irregularities and improprieties improperly influenced the grand jury and ultimately bolstered its decision to indict these defendants … Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires,” said Burns.
According to The Kansas City Star, attorney general Schmidt released a statement Friday afternoon in which he did not outline a clear next step for his case, saying, “We are obviously disappointed and respectfully disagree with the court’s decision.”
“We will review the ruling carefully, including the court’s observation that the ruling ‘does not preclude the possibility that the State could continue to pursue this matter in a criminal court,’ and take a fresh look at the evidence and applicable law in this tragic and troubling case to determine the best course forward,” the statement read.
Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry, Verruckt designer John Schooley and former Schlitterbahn operations manager Tyler Miles are currently facing no criminal charges in the death of Caleb Schwab. Attorney general Schmidt may yet choose to appeal the decision or seek further charges through another grand jury or preliminary hearing.