Tamara Lynn Lass
Tamara Lynn Lass
10 days old
March 1, 1988
Case summary compiled by Jody Ewing
Warren County in Iowa
On Tuesday, March 1, 1988, Teri Lass of Norwalk, Iowa, claimed she found her 10-day-old infant daughter, Tamara Lynn Lass, unresponsive.
The child was later pronounced dead.
Norwalk in Polk and Warren Counties
With no visible injuries, authorities first believed the infant died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
During the baby’s autopsy, however, State Medical Examiner Thomas Bennett could find no signs of disease or any other underlying health problems that might have factored into death from SIDS.
During the autopsy, Bennett said, they had considered the fact that a 10-day-old infant is rather young for SIDS.
“In any of these cases of a sudden death for a very small child, anyone less than three weeks of age, you have to be very suspicious because usually SIDS doesn’t occur in that first two- or three-week period of life. It can, but it’s very rare,” Bennett said.
Tamara Lass’s death has frequently (and erroneously) been reported as a SIDS death, even though the medical examiner refused to rule it as such. Bennett’s official report lists the baby girl’s cause of death as “undetermined.”
Another Lass infant found dead
- Courtesy photo Cedar Rapids Gazette
- Six-day-old Shane Lass’s death came just shy of four years after that of his 10-day-old sister, Tamara Lynn Lass.
Less than four years later on February 19, 1992, Teri Lass claimed that her 6-day-old infant son, Shane Alex Lass, was kidnapped from her unlocked, idling vehicle outside the Norwalk post office. Shane’s body was discovered in a ditch outside Norwalk the day after Lass reported him missing. The infant had died of head injuries.
Immediately following Shane’s murder and amidst lingering questions still raised regarding Tamara’s death, Bennett stated he would pull the file of the couple’s first child for review, just to make sure there were no changes needing made to his earlier ruling.
Bennett, however, made no efforts to petition District Court for permission to exhume Tamara Lass’s body. Known throughout the state for his derisive stance over questioned rulings, Bennett reasoned an exhumation wasn’t necessary because he’d found no physical signs of “injury” to the newborn during the autopsy. He altered nothing in his report, and Tamara Lass’s cause of death remains classified as undetermined.
Teri Lass was charged with first-degree murder in Shane’s death. Due to pretrial publicity, the case was moved from Warren County to Newton in Jasper County. The day of opening arguments, criminal defense attorney Alfredo Parrish — a high profile Des Moines litigator known for his ability to put doubt in jurors’ minds — stated that jurors had already made up their minds about Lass’s guilt and asked the judge to declare a mistrial.
District Court Judge Darrell Goodhue granted Parrish’s motion, and a second trial was scheduled to be held in Keokuk in extreme southeast Iowa where jurors might be unfamiliar with the full scope of Teri Lass’s outrageous claims and [sometimes] implausible allegations.
- Courtesy photo Karon King, Iowa Gravestone Photo Project
- State Medical Examiner Thomas Bennett finds nothing to indicate Tamara Lynn Lass died of “SIDS.” He rules her cause of death as “undetermined.”
Parrish’s tactics worked once again; on March 24, 1993, the Lee County District Court jury acquitted Lass of murder charges in her son’s death.
Pending an exhumation and further investigation, she has yet to be charged in her infant daughter’s unsolved death.
Shane Lass’s case also remains open but in name only; Teri Lass cannot be re-tried in his slaying.
Read more about Shane’s murder and Teri Lass’s explanation for his kidnapping and death.
Sources and References:
- “Baby kidnapped: 6-day-old taken from car,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 20, 1992
- “Missing baby’s bound found in ditch,” The Spencer Daily Reporter, February 21, 1992
- “Killing of baby prompts new look at ‘SIDS death’,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Feb. 22, 1992
- “No new clues found in death of Norwalk tot,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, Feb. 23, 1992
- “Funeral today for murdered Norwalk baby,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 24, 1992
- “Baby probe continues,” The Hawk Eye, February 24, 1992
- “Baby’s Funeral,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 25, 1992
- “Mother charged with baby’s murder,” The Spencer Daily Reporter, Feb. 26, 1992
- “Lass custody hearing set: Mother accused in baby’s death,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 2, 1992
- “Hearing delayed in murdered baby case,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 5, 1992
- “Teri Lass pleads innocent,” The Spencer Daily Reporter, March 7, 1992
- “Child’s custody mulled,” The Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 8, 1992
- “Accused killer’s sister to care for son,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 18, 1992
- “Jury selection in Lass case continues,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dec. 3, 1992
- “Retrial in baby death expected east of Newton,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dec. 5, 1992
- “Vote for ’92′s top stories,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 13, 1992
- “Lass trial to open Tuesday in Keokuk,” The Hawk Eye, March 8, 1993
- “No jury selected yet in mother’s murder trial,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 10, 1993
- “Jury chosen for trial on baby’s death,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 11, 1993
- “Lass’ murder trial begins,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 12, 1993
- “DCI: Kidnap note came from mom’s magazine,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 13, 1993
- “Lass trial witness saw car near site of body,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 16, 1993
- “Testimony: Car seat prints not mom’s,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 17, 1993
- “3 cars matching Lass’ said to be in Norwalk,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 18, 1993
- “Sister testifies: Man raped Teri Lass, threatened her,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 19, 1993
- “Composed Lass recounts final day with son,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 23, 1993
- “Lass murder trial goes to jurors,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 24, 1993
- “Lass acquitted of murder,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 25, 1993
- “Lass found innocent in son’s death,” The Spencer Daily Reporter, March 25, 1993
- “Lass regains custody of son,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 2, 1993
- “TV tabloid to feature Teri Lass,” Associated Press, April 11, 1993
- “Mom acquitted of killing baby is pregnant, expecting twins,” Associated Press/Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 11, 1993
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