Panel finds deaths of Ind. mom, 2 kids accidental

AP News
Posted: Jul 11, 2013 3:04 PM

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana grand jury investigating the deaths of a woman and her two children whose naked bodies were found in a shallow creek in March says disorientation caused by hypothermia played a key role in what a prosecutor on Thursday called a "bizarre" tragedy.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson said the grand jury met for five days and heard from 17 witnesses before determining this week that the deaths of 35-year-old Jaime Clutter, 10-year-old Brandon Clutter and 6-month-old Katelyn Clutter were accidental. Questions had swirled about whether Jaime Clutter might have killed her children, then herself, as part of a religious ritual after a passer-by found the nude bodies in a New Albany creek on March 13. Police said they found a baby harness and a Bible nearby.

"The grand jury has spoken through the findings that they do not believe Jaime Clutter killed her two children," Henderson said at a news conference in New Albany, about a mile north of Louisville, Ky. "They don't believe Jaime Clutter committed suicide."

Instead, Henderson said, evidence shows the deaths were caused by drowning, with hypothermia a contributing factor.

Henderson said Jaime Clutter was known as a deeply spiritual person who dressed conservatively but said there was no evidence to suggest she had gone to the creek and disrobed as part of any religious rite.

"This was totally contrary to her and her faith," he said.

The grand jury review also turned up no indications of a struggle involving another person, Henderson said. A man who called 911 after finding the bodies told dispatchers the woman's body appeared battered. The Kentucky medical examiner's office indicated the injuries were consistent with those caused by rocks in a creek, Henderson said.

Clutter's husband, Michael Clutter, was at work the day his family died, and Henderson said the grand jury found no wrongdoing on his part.

Henderson said an expert testified that people can become confused, disoriented and even disrobe in cases of hypothermia. The temperature was about 30 degrees with a wind chill of 18 degrees when the bodies were found, he said.

"We believe that hypothermia played the major role in the actions of Jaime Clutter on that morning with the extreme cold temperatures," he said.

Henderson said there were no signs of anything out of the ordinary with the Clutters, who moved to New Albany from Washington state in December, until Jaime Clutter abruptly took her children from their apartment the day of their deaths, leaving behind coats and her eyeglasses.

"What happened that morning, we're not certain," the prosecutor said. "At the end of this, it is a bizarre set of circumstances."