Woman takes back plea in son's death

Relates to:
Date: 2003-02-10

BUFFALO - A woman withdrew her guilty plea to a negligent homicide charge in the death of her 5-year-old adopted son, who died from swallowing laundry detergent.

Jessica Vitale-Elgie withdrew her plea Thursday after state Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang warned that she would be sent to prison for one to three years in the death of Casey "C.J." Elgie. The boy, who was born in Vietnam, died in September 2000 in the family's Amherst home in suburban Buffalo.

Two months ago, Wolfgang said she would consider probation after Vitale-Elgie had admitted failing to seek medical aid for her son. But the judge said Thursday she felt compelled to impose a prison term after receiving information from unidentified in-laws of the defendant and public agencies.

The judge said she learned that Vitale-Elgie, who has three young children, including an 8-year-old adopted daughter, made her son's "life a living hell" and that her mistreatment led to his death, the Buffalo News reported. Vitale-Elgie still has supervised visits with her children who live with her estranged husband, her attorneys said.

Vitale-Elgie's attorneys told the judge they plan to file motions asking Wolfgang to recuse herself from the case so it can be assigned to another judge.

The lawyers said their client pleaded guilty to save her daughter from testifying.

Vitale-Elgie remains free without bail. If convicted, she could face a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to four years in state prison.


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