Justice for victims? Babies and tiny children dead; those entrusted with their care are accused

Date: 2005-01-30

Deseret Morning News

A Deseret Morning News search of court records and newspaper archives identified 36 children younger than 6 who died as a result of child-abuse related homicide since 1999.
Twenty-three victims were boys; 13 were girls. Among those who were charged with crimes are 25 men and 13 women. In two cases, both parents were charged. Fourteen fathers and seven mothers were accused of killing their biological or adopted sons or daughters.

But there may be many more child-homicide cases that have gone undocumented.
Prosecutors in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties were unable to say how many potential cases they screen for charges but, for various reasons, do not file any charges. None of them track that information.

"We don't file every case that comes to us a possible homicide," Deputy Salt Lake District Attorney Jim Cope said. "I couldn't tell you if it is 3 percent or 30 percent that we get rid of."
Cope conceded that sometimes prosecutors may take the easy way out. "I think justice is being done in the cases that we bring," he said. "I think there are some people who have quote 'gotten away with murder.' "

Weber County

Victim: Karston Sampson, 17 months
Died: Jan. 29, 1999
How died: Shaken baby syndrome
Evidence: Pre-existing medical condition complicated case
Accused: Justin Jay Scott, mother's boyfriend
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Scott entered an "Alford plea"* to second-degree child abuse homicide; 2nd District Judge Parley Baldwin sentenced Scott to 30 days in jail

Victim: Isaac Austin, 4 months
Died: Feb. 10, 2001
How died: Beating, shaking
Evidence: Lacerated liver, 16 broken ribs and head injury
Accused: John L. Austin, baby's father
Charge: Capital homicide
Outcome: Austin pleaded guilty to lesser charge of first-degree murder; 4th District Judge Brent West sentenced Austin to five years to life. His first parole hearing is scheduled for 2016.

Victim: Nathan Scheer, 6 months
Died: May 11, 2001
How died: Suffocation
Evidence: Mother confessed to smothering child with a plastic bag, a pile of blankets and her hand.
Accused: Jennifer Robinson, mother
Charge: Murder; attempted murder, second-degree felony
Outcome: Pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder; 2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor ordered five years to life in prison.

Victim: Schaedie Jaedin Bolan, 19 months
Died: May 26, 2001
How died: Shaking
Accused: Derek Byron West, baby sitter
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Pleaded guilty to lesser charge of child abuse homicide, second-degree felony; 2nd District Judge Roger S. Dutson ordered one to 15 years in prison.

Victim: Jacob Best, 11 months
Died: July 16, 2002
How died: Beating, shaking
Accused: Bellarion Ancira, mother's boyfriend
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Ancira pleaded guilty; 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones sentenced him to five years to life.

Victim: Andrew Joseph David Tilt, 5 months
Died: July 30, 2002
How died: Squeezed
Evidence: Father confessed to being stressed in the middle of the night when baby fussed.
Accused: Patrick Tilt, father
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Jury found him guilty; 2nd District Judge Scott M. Hadley ordered five years to life in prison.

Victim: Yasmin Moody, 3 years
Died: Aug. 25, 2002
How died: Infection due to child abuse
Evidence: Ogden Police Lt. Scott Sandberg called it the worst case of abuse he'd ever seen.
Accused: Craig and Sawson Whitelaw, child's mother and stepfather.
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Both pleaded guilty; 2nd District Judge Pamela G. Heffernan ordered five years to life in prison.

Victim: Ranei Nieman, 10 months
Died: Sept. 7, 2001
How died: Head trauma
Evidence: Severe skull fracture and broken ribs the week before she died.
Accused: Garritt Anderson, mother's boyfriend
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony; child abuse, second-degree felony
Outcome: Anderson pleaded guilty; 3rd District Judge Timothy Hanson ordered one to 15 years in prison.

Victim: Eduardo "Lalo" Rodriguez, 3 years
Died: April 22, 2004
How died: Fire
Evidence: Child killed in fire after being left alone at home for 90 minutes.
Accused: Carlos Socrates Rodriguez, father
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Trial pending

Salt Lake County

Victim: Trevor Wagner, 6 years
Died: Aug. 19, 2000
How died: Beating
Evidence: Massive head injuries
Accused: Bobby San Juan, mother's boyfriend
Charge: Murder
Outcome: A jury found San Juan guilty on a lesser charge of second-degree child abuse homicide; 3rd District Judge Pat Brian sentenced San Juan to 15 years in prison.

Victim: Camryn, 40 days old
Died: Dec. 17, 2001 [sic 200]
How died: Shaken baby syndrome
Evidence: Doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center overheard Morgan say the baby was fussy and he became frustrated.
Accused: Edd Morgan, adoptive father
Charge: Murder and second-degree child abuse homicide
Outcome: Pleaded guilty to lesser charge of child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony with possible sentence of one-15 years; 3rd District Judge Dennis Fuchs sentenced Morgan to 365 days in jail.

Victim: Jeremy Bunting, 4 years
Died: Nov. 6, 1999
How died: Undetermined
Accused: Michael J. Bunting, father
Evidence: Father injected Freon — a gaseous refrigerant — in boy's bathtub water
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Pleaded guilty to child-abuse homicide, a second-degree felony; 3rd District Judge Timothy Hansen ordered 1-15 years in prison.

Victim: Rhoda Wright, 18 months
Died: Jan. 19, 2001
How died: Head trauma
Evidence: Child had 3- to 4-inch skull fracture that appeared to be result of blunt force trauma.
Accused: Michelle Afton Michaels, baby sitter
Charge: child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Wright entered an "Alford plea"*; 3rd District Judge Dennis M. Fuchs sentenced Michaels to 36 months probation.

Victim: Brianna Williams, 1 year
Died: June 9, 2000
How died: Suffocation
Accused: Anthony Williams, baby's father
Charge: Child abuse homicide
Outcome: 3rd District Judge Ann Boyden found Williams not guilty in a bench trial.

Victim: Salem Corey Hogan, 21 months
Died: June 24, 2002
How died: Shaking
Evidence: Child lived for 21 months before he died of injuries.
Accused: Christopher Alan Hogan, father
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: He entered a "Sery plea"** to charge. 3rd District Judge Dennis Frederick ordered one to 15 years in prison.

Victim: Trinity Kale, 8 months
Died: July 5, 2003
How died: Blunt force trauma
Accused: Christopher Paul Kale, father
Evidence: Internal bleeding, bruises and burns. Also malnourished and dehydrated.
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Trial pending

Victim: Casey Borrow, 18 months
Died: Oct. 22, 2003
How died: Head trauma
Evidence: Internal hemorrhaging and injuries to scalp, torso and extremities
Accused: Jeanette Ilene Gomez, foster mother
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Pleaded guilty to lesser charge of child abuse homicide, second-degree. 3rd District Judge Michael K. Burton ordered one-15 years in prison.

Victim: Sindy Blanco, 3 months,
Died: Dec. 14, 2000
How died: Squeezing
Evidence: Ten broken ribs and fractures to both legs above the knees. County prosecutor Trina Higgins said Blanco was not charged with homicide because medical examiner ruled cause of death "undetermined."
Accused: Felix Ruben Blanco, father
Charge: Two counts of third-degree child abuse
Outcome: Blanco pleaded guilty; 3rd District Judge Dennis Frederick ordered two consecutive zero-to-five terms in prison.

Victim: Miguel Rios, 4 months
Died: Oct. 19, 2004
How died: Head trauma
Evidence: Showed he was struck on the side of his head
Accused: Joel Rios, father
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Rios pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child abuse/neglect, a third-degree felony; 3rd District Judge Sheila McCleve suspended a zero-to-five-year prison sentence but ordered Rios to spend one year in a county jail.

Victim: Dreydon Archuleta, 5 months
Died: Sept. 27, 2004
How died: Shaking
Evidence: Medical examiner concluded baby died from violent shaking and a blow to the head.
Accused: Julie Archuleta, mother
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Pending. Next court date Jan. 31

Victim: Carston Williams, 4 years
Died: Oct. 19, 2004
How died: Beating
Evidence: Emergency crews found child in critical condition with injuries to his head, face and back.
Accused: Adam Sean Jeppson, mother's boyfriend
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Pending

Davis County

Victim: Clancy Peterson, 3 months
Died: March 29, 2000
How died: Shaken baby
Accused: Jeri Daines
Charge:Murder
Outcome: Daines was acquitted in a jury trial.

Victim: Jandson Cayle LeFevre, 21 months
Died: Sept. 6, 2000
How died: Head trauma
Evidence: Berry admitted she threw the boy, who hit his head on a plastic toy and the corner of his bed.
Accused: Sarah Marie Berry, stepmother
Charge: Murder; manslaughter, second-degree felony
Outcome: She pleaded guilty to lesser charge of child abuse homicide, second-degree felony; 2nd District Judge Dawson ordered one to 15 years in prison.

Victim: Lacey Lawrence, 6 years
Died: Sept. 1, 2002
How died: Arson fire
Evidence: Ott was enraged about his estranged wife's relationship with Lacey's father.
Accused: Mark Anthony Ott
Charge: Aggravated homicide, arson, burglary, assault, theft
Outcome: Jury found Ott guilty; 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin ordered life without parole.

Victim: Jordyn Marie Parker, 20 months
Died: Sept. 26, 2002
How died: Shaking
Evidence: Extensive bleeding on the brain.
Accused: Raynette Marian Olsen, mother's cousin
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Pleaded guilty to lesser charge of child abuse homicide, third degree. Sentencing is set for March 1.

Utah County

Victim: Adrian Avila, 4 months
Date died: June 5, 2000
How died: Shaking
Evidence: Brain swelling, bleeding
Accused: Austreberto Mera, aunt's boyfriend
Charge: Child abuse homicide, third-degree felony
Outcome: Police believe Mera fled to Mexico.

Victim: Cassandra Killpack, 4 years
How died: Water intoxication
Evidence: The girl's 7-year-old sister told police her mother tied Cassandra's hands behind her back and forced water down her throat.
Accused: Richard and Jennete Killpack, adoptive parents
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Trial to start September 2005

Victim: Charlotte Thomas, 11 months
Died: June 2, 2004
How died: Suffocation
Evidence: Police say girl was smothered by pillows and cushions on a sofa.
Accused: Sean Barry Thomas
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree felony
Outcome: Pending

Washington County

Victim: Oliver Woods, 4 days
Died: Feb. 8, 2000
How died: Neglect
Accused: Rebekah Jolyn Woods, mother
Evidence: Baby's body found wrapped in a blanket at a miniature golf course.
Charge: Murder, first-degree; desecration of human body, third-degree felony
Outcome: She was convicted of lesser charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor and desecration of human body, a third-degree felony. On Sept. 23, 2003, 5th District Judge James Shumate suspended a 0-5 prison sentence and a one-year jail sentence.

Summit County

Victim: Wyatt Robert D. Radmall, 22 months
Died: Feb. 15, 2000
How died: Beating
Evidence: Brain contusions.
Accused: Lorin S. Leavitt, mother's boyfriend
Charge: Murder and child abuse homicide, third-degree felony
Outcome: Leavitt pleaded guilty to lesser child abuse homicide, a third-degree felony; 3rd District Judge Robert K. Hilder sentenced Leavitt to 0-5 years in prison.

Box Elder County

Victim: Spencer Ayotte, 2 1/2 months
Died: Sept. 15, 2000
How died: Repeated abuse, beating
Evidence: Fifteen fractured ribs, tears in brain tissue, bruised scalp and bleeding on brain.
Accused: David Ayotte, father
Charge: Murder
Outcome: Pleaded guilty; 1st District Judge Clint Judkins ordered 5 years to life in prison.

Cache County

Victim: Edward Raymond Gularte IV, 2 years
Died: Oct. 1, 2001
How died: Beating
Accused: Edward Raymond Gularte, III, father
Charge: Child abuse homicide, third-degree felony
Outcome: Pleaded guilty; 1st District Judge Gordon J. Low suspended a zero-to-five-year sentence and ordered Gularte to spend 15 months in jail. He was granted credit for time served and released.

Grand County

Victim: Baby girl, 2 1/2 years
Died: Jan. 2, 2004
How died: Strangulation
Evidence: Police found the toddler "unresponsive" in the back seat of Bullock's vehicle 170 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
Accused: Wendy Bullock, mother
Charge: Child abuse homicide, second-degree
Outcome: Pending. Next court date Feb. 22.

Uintah County

Victim: Jayce Melton, 1 year
Died: June 5, 2001
How died: Drowned
Evidence: Mother left Jayce and sibling unattended in bathtub for 32 minutes while on the telephone.
Accused: Jessica T. Forbis, mother
Charge: Child abuse homicide, third-degree felony
Outcome: She pleaded guilty; zero to five years prison suspended and she was placed on 36 months probation

Federal Court

Victims: Dakota Ironhawk Black, 3, and Nicole Gentlehawk Black, 1
Died: Sept. 28, 2000
How died: Stabbing
Evidence: Slashed children's throats in a drunken rage.
Accused: Anderson Black, children's father
Charge: Murder
Outcome: U.S. District Judge David Winder ordered life in prison.

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*An "Alford plea" allows a defendant to file a memo stating he or she does not admit guilt. Allows defendant to avoid the risk of trial on a more serious charge. ** "Sery plea" allows a defendant to appeal a guilty plea.

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