Losing a child is a tragedy. That was the case when 14-month-old Isabella Zielinski died in 2003. Almost a year earlier, she lost consciousness while under the care of a Romeoville, Ill., daycare worker who was later accused of violently shaking her and causing serious internal injuries. In 2005, a Will County, Ill., judge found daycare worker Jennifer Del Prete guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

Del Prete says she was wrongfully convicted. As the Medill Innocence Project has examined the case, it sought to speak with Isabella’s parents. Her father declined to comment.

Often untold are the stories of children who lose parents to incarceration. Over the last seven years, Del Prete’s daughter, Tia, now 23 whom we filmed earlier this year, has entered adulthood without her mother’s daily presence.

Here is Tia’s story.


By Katie Brennan, Dan Tham and Yoonie Yang
Medill Innocence Project
Published: Sept. 5, 2012
Updated: Sept. 10, 2012

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