exposing the dark side of adoption
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A Bothell woman has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the beating death of her 2-year-old daughter.

A Snohomish County Superior Court jury yesterday found Noreen Erlandson, 39, guilty of beating her daughter Kayla to death last April, including scalding and biting the child.

Prosecutors said they will seek an exceptionally long sentence, beyond the standard 12 years.

Kayla Erlandson died in Harborview Medical Center April 26, two nights after she was found unconscious in her mother's arms. She had 65 injuries over her body, including bruises, brain swelling, a lacerated liver, a neck bite and a deep scald on her arm.

"The child was just beaten something awful," said Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor David Hiltner after the trial. The injuries themselves were the most compelling evidence, he said, because they were "very obviously from a beating."

Hiltner argued that Erlandson beat the child senseless during a four-hour period because she finally lost control over the child's frequent temper tantrums and other problems, including her inability to walk well.

Erlandson and her husband, Douglas, had adopted the child seven months earlier. Noreen Erlandson was greatly disappointed she had not succeeded with Kayla as she had with another adopted child, Hiltner said.

Defense attorney David Allen suggested Kayla's baby-sitter or the sitter's husband fatally injured the girl. He said an appeal is likely.

"I think we showed tremendous reasonable doubt," Allen said after the verdict. "Noreen came across as a person who couldn't possibly have committed this crime."

Allen told jurors there were many inconsistencies in the prosecution's case. He disputed evidence that purportedly showed the bite mark on the child's neck matched Erlandson's teeth. And he asked why Erlandson would take the child many places nicely dressed if she were abusing her.

Jurors, who deliberated nine hours over two days, would not comment on the verdict. Erlandson is free without bail, pending sentencing on March 16.

The case sent shock waves through the international adoption community.

Kayla was South Korean, and the Seoul adoption agency that helped place her and her older brother suspended the Seattle agency involved -

Travelers Aid Society

- from further Korean adoptions.

1992 Feb 18