Man jailed after newborn's death released

Charges dismissed without prejudice

PORT TOWNSEND — A man jailed in connection with a month-old baby found dead Jan. 20 in Kah Tai Park had all charges against him dismissed without prejudice Friday morning in Jefferson County Superior Court.

When charges are dismissed without prejudice, they can be refiled later.

Jordan T. Sorensen, 37, of Port Townsend was not listed on the Jefferson County jail roster on Friday afternoon. He had been held for investigation of unlawful disposal of human remains and investigation of removal/concealment of a dead body since his Jan. 21 arrest.

James Kennedy, Jefferson County prosecuting attorney, wrote in his two-page order of dismissal “the State does not possess sufficient evidence to support a felony level prosecution.”

In a Feb. 16 letter to Port Townsend Police Department Detective Jon Stuart, Kennedy wrote that his office is confident it has evidence to support charges of “concealing human remains” (a gross misdemeanor), or “disposing of human remains” or “failing to notify the coroner of human remains” (both misdemeanors) under RCW 68.50.

However, it is possible that if his office pursued these lesser charges, it could be precluded from pursuing more serious charges in the future, Kennedy wrote, because of a state mandatory joinder rule that requires that related offenses be joined together for trial.

“Given the possibility that additional evidence may come to light in the future, it does not seem worth it at this time to pursue these charges,” Kennedy’s letter said.

Kennedy concludes in the letter that his office has no evidence to refute Sorensen’s version of events that he had fallen asleep with the child, the child shifted position and that interfered with his ability to breath and that was the cause of death.

Kennedy wrote that he reached his decision after reviewing the materials submitted as part of the investigation into the death of “O.S.”, reviewing the medical examiner’s report submitted by Dr. Lindsay Harle, consulting with toxicologist Dr. Justin Brower who analyzed O.S.’s blood and consulting with numerous other prosecutors in five other Washington counties.

According to Kennedy’s letter, O.S. was born on Dec. 25 in Puyallup to Sorensen and the mother K.A., who was undergoing inpatient drug treatment at the time.

“O.S. tested positive for fentanyl when born, consistent with K.A. history of drug use,” the letter said.

O.S. was discharged from the hospital to Sorensen, the baby’s father, on Jan. 7.

“The transfer to the father’s custody was overseen by (Department of Children, Youth and Families), which required Sorensen to pass a urinalysis test and agree to certain conditions such as follow up and taking O.S. to his medical appointments.”

The autopsy performed by Dr. Harle concluded the cause of death was undetermined, according to the letter.

“Broadly speaking, the findings of the autopsy do not appear to be inconsistent with Sorensen’s version of events, with the exception that lividity estimates indicate that O.S. may have been face down for longer than the length of time reported by Sorensen,” the letter said.

The toxicology report showed a small amount of methamphetamine in O.S.’s system.

“While the presence of methamphetamine is extremely concerning, both Dr. Harle and Dr. Brower noted that the amount was quite small, likely due to environmental exposure, and neither could authoritatively state that the amount detected played (a) role it the infant’s death,” the letter said.

Kennedy’s letter listed the potential charges that were considered and why each was not applicable.

• Murder (Class A felony) requires “circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.”

• Manslaughter (Class A felony) requires “conduct that is reckless or criminally negligent.”

• Controlled substance homicide (Class B felony) requires “a person ‘deliver’ a controlled substance to another, which through use results in the death of the transferee.”

• Endangerment with a controlled substance (Class B felony) requires proving “an individual (caused) a child to have contact with methamphetamine or ingredients of methamphetamine “that are being used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.”

• Criminal mistreatment (Class B felony) requires that “a parent (or other applicable adult) withhold ‘the basic necessities of life’ with criminal negligence.”

Sorensen had been the subject of an extensive manhunt since Jan. 20 after neither he nor the infant were where they were expected to be according to a safety plan developed by the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.

On Jan. 21, police received a call about 10 a.m. from a transient in Kah Tai Park saying that Sorensen was hiding in back of his tent and the baby’s location was unknown.

Officers located Sorensen and took him into custody after a brief struggle, but the baby was not located.

As Sorensen started walking officers to the baby’s location, he started mumbling that the child was dead, according to the probable cause statement. The child was located deceased in car seat in bushes in the park.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at Brian.Gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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