KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) – A Wyandotte County judge has dismissed the charges against three men in the death of a young boy who died riding a water slide in Kansas City, Kansas.
In 2016, Caleb Thomas Schwab, the second oldest son of Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab, was killed while riding the world’s tallest water slide, Verrückt, at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Park owner Jeff Henry and designer John Schooley were charged with second-degree murder, while Director of Operations Tyler Miles was charged with reckless involuntary manslaughter.
During a motion hearing to dismiss the criminal charges Friday morning, Judge Robert Burns said the Kansas Attorney General’s office had abused a grand jury to get the indictments against the three men.
Attorney Carl Cornwell represents Henry, who was not in court Friday. While Cornwell was satisfied with the ruling, it was still unexpected.
“It’s easy for me to say I knew that was going to happen,” he told KCTV5 News. “But I didn’t know for sure that was going to happen.”
Burns cited video from a television program showing the development of the ride as one of the reasons of the dismissal.
“The grand jury wasn’t told that some of the things that were done were done for dramatic purposes,” Cornwell noted.
The judge also thought testimony by an expert was misleading to jurors.
Cornwell questioned the fact that the case was even being held in criminal court, asking KCTV5 News, “Why are we trying to make criminal acts out of civil occurrences?”
In his decision, Burns seemed to agree with that sentiment.
“Quite simply, these defendants were not afforded the due process protections and fundamental fairness Kansas law requires,” he wrote. “Therefore, the cumulative effect of these violations cannot be deemed harmless.”
Friday afternoon the Kansas Attorney General’s released a statement on the ruling, with AG Derek Schmidt saying his office was disappointed and disagreed with the decision.
“We are obviously disappointed and respectfully disagree with the court’s decision. We will review the ruling carefully, including the court’s observation that the ruling ‘does not preclude the possibility that the State could continue to pursue this matter in a criminal court,’ and take a fresh look at the evidence and applicable law in this tragic and troubling case to determine the best course forward.”
On Friday afternoon, Schlitterbahn released the following statement: "We welcome today’s decision which dismissed the charges against all defendants. We are thankful for all the support and encouragement we’ve received."
Miles has also been charged for lying to authorities and concealing evidence from investigators dropped back in November last year.
The first verdict in the case was ruled on in October when maintenance employees David Hughes and John Zalsman were found not guilty of obstructing an investigation into Schwab's death.