Judge accepts guilty pleas in starvation death

Relates to:
Date: 2009-09-29
Source: WDAM .com

Judge accepts guilty pleas in starvation death

Posted: Sep 29, 2009 11:15 AM EDT
Updated: Dec 10, 2012 5:09 PM EST

Grandmother, aunt accused of starving child to death

By Bert Case - bio | email

FOREST, MS (WLBT) - It was a dramatic morning in the Scott County Courthouse in Forest, Mississippi. The two women, who were charged with starving a four year old boy to death, pleaded guilty and got life without parole.

The first thing you noticed when they arrived is that they were dressed in bullet resistant vests. The grandmother and aunt of four-year-old Austin Watkins are 43 year old Janice Mowdy and 23 year old Stephanie Bell. He was in their custody because his father was in jail and his mother was "on pills."

Judge Marcus Gordon could have sent the case to a jury but decided to accept their guilty plea and immediately sentence them after he convinced himself they were guilty.

"You knew that he would die, no question about that, the boy died a heinous death. You are both responsible for that death. Stephanie Bell it's the sentence of this court, that you serve life in prison in the custody of the Mississippi Dept. Of Corrections, to serve life in prison without the benefit of reduction of sentence, suspension or parole. Janice Lynn Mowdy, it's the sentence of this court, that you serve life in prison, in the custody of the Mississippi Dept. Of Corrections, and serve life in prison without the benefit of suspension, reduction of sentence, or parole" said Judge Marcus Gordon.

District Attorney Mark Duncan agreed with the plea bargain agreement, which was accepted by the judge.

"Life without parole is as harsh a penalty the state of Mississippi has, except for death. I think it was appropriate under the circumstances" said Duncan.

The defense attorney for Stephanie Bell, Shawn Harris of Forest, explained why his client pleaded guilty.

"Basically it was to avoid the death penalty" said Harris.

>Both women will soon be in the custody of the department of corrections for life, without the possibility of parole.

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