exposing the dark side of adoption
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A Bothell nurse practitioner, accused of beating her 2-year-old adopted daughter to death because the toddler fell short of her expectations, was found guilty yesterday of second-degree murder.

Noreen Marie Erlandson raised her hands to her face and cried softly when the verdict was handed down after nearly two days of deliberations by a Snohomish County Superior Court jury.

Judge Joseph Thibodeau rejected a request by prosecutors that the 39-year-old ((age)) woman be held in jail without bail. He told Erlandson she can remain free on personal recognizance until she is sentenced March 18.

The standard penalty range is about 10 to 14 years under state guidelines, but Thibodeau has the authority to impose a sentence of up to life in prison.

Deputy Prosecutor David Hiltner said last night that his office hasn't decided on the length of the sentence it would seek, but it would be far longer than the standard range.

This will be based on the extreme vulnerability of the victim, Erlandson's violation of her position of trust, and the fact that she had basic medical training and had to know the consequences of her actions, Hiltner said.

Defense attorney David Allen said Erlandson is ``obviously devastated" by the verdict and will appeal.

``It's hard for me to accept this verdict," Allen said last night. ``Intellectually I have to, but in my gut I can't.

``This is a woman who has an exemplary background with no suspicion of any wrongdoing in the past. This is not like one of those cases of ongoing abuse; that didn't happen here."

The three-week-long trial was followed closely not only here but in Korea, where the victim was born. Placement of Korean children with adoptive families in foreign countries has been the subject of a growing controversy in Korea in recent years.

Prosecutors accused Erlandson of fatally beating her daughter, Kayla, out of frustration because the girl, who had motor skill problems and an attention disorder, didn't fit in with the 39-year-old woman's image of the perfect family.

The nurse practitioner testified in her own defense during the trial and denied inflicting the injuries that took the life of her daughter, who was the second child the family adopted from Korea.

Erlandson and her husband, Douglas, had also adopted a son from Korea, 4-year-old Shea. There is no indication Shea that suffered abuse, but he has been placed in foster care.

Prosecutors accused Erlandson of beating, burning and biting Kayla, who died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on April 26. She had been rushed there two days earlier; her parents discovered her unconscious and called 911 after consulting their family doctor.

Kayla had a severe head injury, a serious burn on one arm, a bite wound on her neck, and 65 bruises and other injuries on various parts of the body when she was taken to the hospital.

Erlandson told jurors she didn't know how Kayla was burned or got the bite on her neck, but said the bruises occurred because the child fell down a lot due to her motor skills problems.

She said the head injury could have occurred when Kayla slipped and struck her head on the toilet.

1992 Sep 18