Prosecutors have dropped charges against an Omaha man accused of killing his girlfriend’s son.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said prosecutors dismissed charges of child abuse resulting in death against Ryan Mullen, 29, after, they say, the child’s mother changed her account of Oct. 18, 2013.

Mullen had said that Payton Birtwell fell out of a stroller as the couple took him on a walk that day. However, a coroner’s physician determined that the child’s head injuries were too severe to be from a fall and instead were consistent with shaken-baby syndrome.

Payton’s mother, Chelsea Birtwell, also had told police that Payton fell from a stroller during a walk near the couple’s home near 80th and King Streets, just south of Interstate 680 in Omaha.

She initially told police that Mullen had been alone with Payton for a period of time that day. However, during a recent deposition, Chelsea Birtwell changed her story and said she never left Mullen’s and Payton’s side, Kleine said.

Without a timeline putting an adult alone with the child, prosecutors couldn’t prove who caused Payton’s injuries, Kleine said. Mullen had faced 20 years to life in prison.

The case was dismissed without prejudice — meaning it could be refiled if authorities develop other evidence.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1275, todd.cooper@owh.com

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