CHARGE IN BOY'S DEATH IS BASED ON NEGLIGENCE

Relates to:
Date: 2003-05-24

Author: MATT GRYTA - News Staff Reporter

Prosecutors have conceded they don't have any proof that Jessica Vitale-Elgie forced her five-year-old son to drink a glass full of a toxic detergent solution three years ago.

The child, Casey, later became sick and died as a result of drinking the solution, which allegedly was administered as part of disciplinary action by his mother.

During a recent meeting with State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma, prosecutors said Vitale-Elgie was indicted on a criminally negligent homicide charge because "she did not seek medical attention" immediately after her son became ill.

When Forma asked prosecutors whether the grand jury that indicted her was "alleging the proper care wasn't given" and Vitale-Elgie's "reaction wasn't appropriate" after the boy drank the toxic fluid, prosecutor Kenneth F. Case responded: "Correct."

Case also conceded that prosecutors lack proof of Vitale-Elgie "forcing" the boy to drink the glass of detergent, according to court sources familiar with the proceeding.

The prosecution's case is linked to observations by a neighbor who saw the boy drinking the fatal substance, according to court documents obtained by The News.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys Michael S. Taheri and Peter J. Todoro Jr. declined to comment Friday.

According to court documents, a former Amherst neighbor observed Casey, who was known as "C.J.," swallowing a glass full of what proved to be life-threatening detergent about noon Aug. 31, 2000. He collapsed about six hours later.

Vitale-Elgie said during court proceedings last year that she had been disciplining the boy and acknowledged she let him suffer for hours before he was taken to Women's and Children's Hospital, where he died the next day.

State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang in March agreed to recuse herself from presiding over the criminal case because she said she could no longer honor a no-jail sentencing commitment she had made on Vitale-Elgie's initial guilty plea to the charge.

Wolfgang allowed her to withdraw her guilty plea and face trial before another judge. The case has been transferred to Forma.

Currently living in Kenmore apart from her estranged husband, Vitale-Elgie is being treated for bone cancer while having court-supervised weekly visits with her three other children.

If convicted of criminally negligent homicide, Vitale-Elgie faces a sentence ranging from probation to up to four years in state prison.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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