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First Day of Freedom 'Surreal' for Day Care Worker Who Spent 10 Years in Prison

Jennifer Del Prete, of Hickory Hills, spent time with her now-grown children on Thursday and describes her feelings to NBC 5 Chicago News.

Jennifer Del Prete in her prison mugshot.
Jennifer Del Prete in her prison mugshot.

After 10 years in prison, Jennifer Del Prete says her first day of freedom was "amazing" and "surreal."

The Hickory Hills woman was released by a judge on Wednesday, on bond, after new evidence was discovered by Northwestern University students at the Medill Justice Project.

On Thursday, Del Prete filled out paperwork at the federal courthouse in Chicago. Then she went to see her son and daughter. Her kids were 7 and 14 when she went to prison, convicted in the death of a child from Romeoville.

"I'm not bitter about anything," she told NBC 5 Chicago News. "I think this has humbled me. I was already a strong woman, I believe I'm 10 times stronger now."

Del Prete has maintained her innocence in the death of 14-month-old Isabella Zielinski, who died in 2003. In 2005, Del Prete was sentenced to the minimum 20 years after being convicted of violently shaking Isabella while caring for her in December 2002. 

A federal judge agreed last week to allow Del Prete to be released after new evidence came to light that could point to her innocence. 

In January, the judge issued a 97-page ruling saying new evidence in the case called into question the controversial science behind "shaken baby" syndrome that led to Del Prete's conviction.

via NBC 5 Chicago and Patch editor Shannon Antinori

Tom RS. May 03, 2014 at 10:32 AM
We are being made to focus on a class war, rich vs poor when the real war should be between citizens and the political elitists who want to run every aspect of your life. This is not a democrat or republican problem, they are both to blame for the mess we live in. Look at the character of the person before you pull the lever....
Jacob Matthews May 03, 2014 at 07:22 PM
My mistake That would be state senator Bill Cunningham and state rep Fran Hurley who are turning a blind eye to this state rep MOLESTING A 6 YEAR OLD CHILD. Yes, Tom the character of these politicians is in question. Is this what we are working for???
John Albert May 03, 2014 at 11:01 PM
Don't think people should immediately jump on the innocent bandwagon. Article states that new evidence called into question the science that led to her conviction. Does't automatically mean she is innocent.
ReaditandSpeak May 04, 2014 at 09:45 AM
I find it interesting that she is "not bitter" over the time spent in jail, and those years lost with her family. In my opinion only, a truly innocent person would have felt cheated. I think she's just relieved she finally seems to be getting away with it.
Thomas Mc May 04, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Judges won't release someone from prison awaiting a new trial if they don't think the case was bs. Normally, people in prison await the new trial from prison or await the decision in prison by the prosecutor's office to retry the case or dismiss it. She is only saying she is not bitter because that is PR. She will be found innocent or the prosecutor will quietly dismiss the case...then she will sue and win a settlement. It's better to say she is not bitter now so as not to look like she is preparing to sue. The people thinking she is guilty should be pissed at prosecutors when they find out there really is little to no evidence to keep her behind bars...and that we will have to pay a settlement. For those who don't remember, dozens of people who worked at daycares in the Chicagoland area were convicted of hurting, molesting, and causing death in children under their care in the 80s and 90s only to have convictions overturned later. It was easy for state's attorneys to prosecute these kinds of cases with minimal evidence...it's emotional and people always need to blame someone for something tragic that happens to our kids.


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