Rochelle Lynn Sapp
Rochelle Lynn Sapp
May 2, 2014

Carroll County residents will decide the fate of a 34-year-old Orange City woman who in October allegedly threw a 3-year-old girl to the ground - fracturing her skull - when the girl had trouble removing her jacket and didn't ask the woman for help.

Rochelle Lynn Sapp asked a judge to move her first-degree murder and child-endangerment trial away from Orange City due to widespread publicity of the case by newspaper and television news media that might taint the opinions of potential jurors there.

The story garnered national attention because, in part, of one of Sapp's jail-booking photos, in which she appears to be smirking.

A judge ruled last week to move the trial to Carroll, which is about 90 miles southeast of Orange City and is in a different judicial district. The trial is set for Nov. 13.

Sapp's trial will be the second high-profile murder case moved to Carroll in the past three years. The other was of a Minnesota teenager who shot and killed two convenience-store clerks in Algona and Humboldt in 2011. A jury of 12 Carroll County residents swiftly convicted Michael Swanson of first-degree murder and robbery in June 2011 for the Humboldt slaying.

Swanson, who unsuccessfully used an insanity defense, smiled as the verdicts were read in court. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

Sapp also faces life in prison for the murder charge. The woman operated an in-home day care at her Orange City house, and on Oct. 29 she allegedly picked up the girl, Autumn Elgersma, and threw her to the ground not long after being dropped off by Elgersma's mother that morning, according to a criminal complaint against the woman.

Sapp allegedly called the mother about 9:20 a.m. and said the girl was "way out of it," court documents show. The mother returned to Sapp's house and took the girl to the Orange City Hospital, from which she flew in a medical helicopter to a Sioux Falls, S.D., hospital where she died two days later.

A state medical examiner's autopsy ruled the child's death a homicide.

The girl "suffered brain trauma and extensive skull fracturing," court records show. "Given the devastating nature of the child's injuries ... the child's injuries were the result of considerable inflicted force."

Sapp initially claimed to investigators that the girl was injured when she fell down some stairs but later recanted the story and allegedly admitted that she threw the child to the ground, "causing the child to strike her head," the documents show.

Sapp paid $25,000 - 10 percent of her total $250,000 bail amount - to be released from jail until the trial concludes.