Soldier charged with murder

Date: 2011-03-26

By CRAIG FOX & DAVID C. SHAMPINE

A 23-year-old Fort Drum soldier was arrested early Friday on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the death of the 4-month-old baby he and his wife were in the process of adopting.

Jeffrey A. Sliker, 112 W. Lynde St., "admitted to causing the blunt force trauma to the head" of the baby, according to a Watertown police detective's statement filed in Watertown City Court.

Sliker, arrested about 2 a.m. Friday, is being held without bail in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building and awaits grand jury action. Assistant Jefferson County Public Defender Sheila M. Crowley, representing him at his arraignment before City Judge James C. Harberson, waived the soldier's right to a preliminary hearing.

Sliker is accused of causing the death of Laurne E. Clark, also known as Mollie E. Sliker, "by inflicting blunt force trauma to the head of said child and thereafter wholly failing to obtain medical care or treatment for her, thereby causing her death," according to a court document.

The injury was inflicted about 6 a.m. Wednesday, the court document indicates. Guilfoyle Ambulance, the Watertown Fire Department and city police were called to the West Lynde Street residence at 1:41 p.m. for an unresponsive baby, according to a police press release.

Responders found the baby dead, police said.

City police Detective Lt. Frank J. Derrigo declined comment about whether the soldier's wife, Ashley, and a 2-year-old son were home at the time of the alleged fatal assault.

On Thursday, Jefferson County Medical Examiner Dr. Samuel A. Livingstone performed an autopsy and determined her death was a result of a homicide, police said.

Sliker and his wife were in the process of adopting Laurne, police said. Jefferson County District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert said the adoption was being handled by a private agency but did not elaborate. Family Court Chief Clerk Valerie Boyle said Friday that the adoption hadn't been finalized.

On Friday, it wasn't clear how long Laurne lived with the Slikers. Police, the D.A.'s office, the county Department of Social Services and Family Court officials said they couldn't comment on the adoption.

Talking in general terms and not about this particular case, Michael A. Klein, district executive for the 5th Judicial District, said Friday that couples planning to adopt are required to obtain an adoption certification that allows them to bring home a baby from the hospital to live with them for six months.

During the process, the court conducts child and family criminal background checks and a home-study assessment of the couple and completes medical and income reviews on them. After six months, a Family Court judge can grant the couple status as "fully adoptive parents," Mr. Klein said.

Commissioner Laura C. Cerow confirmed that the child protective services unit of the Department of Social Services is participating in the investigation and has removed a 2-year-old child from the Sliker home. Saying it was an ongoing criminal case, she said she couldn't comment further on the status of that child or release details about the impending adoption.

Sliker's brother, James, was at court Friday morning after driving from Massachusetts. A court source said he asked about arrangements being made for the surviving child. The incident left the brother "confused." Both adopted, they were close when they were growing up, he said.

"He's not that type of person I know who would do something like that," the brother said.

On Friday afternoon, no one answered the door of the tiny, two-story house near the corner of Mill Street. A military flag signifying that a family member is on active duty remains displayed in a front window.

Neighbors William J. and Sherry A. House were shocked to hear about Mr. Sliker's arrest, saying they saw police cars and an ambulance at the house Wednesday for quite a long time, so they figured it was serious.

"It's sad," said Mr. House, a father of four. "I don't see how you could do something like that to anybody, let alone a baby."

They don't know the Slikers, who have lived on their street for maybe a year, but saw Sliker come home every so often in his military fatigues.

Sliker has been stationed since June 2008 at Fort Drum, where he is a private first class assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 3d Brigade Combat Team, according to the post public affairs office.

A native of Middletown, R.I., Sliker joined the Army in January 2008, and served in Afghanistan from January to December 2009. He holds the Purple Heart for an unspecified battle injury and has various combat medals, badges and ribbons. Before they were married, the couple lived in Middletown and graduated together in 2007 from Middletown High School, where he played football.

Lt. Derrigo acknowledged a rash of recent crimes in the county, including four robberies, has been committed by service members.

"I don't think you can attribute it to the military," he said. "I think the crimes are mostly related to population growth."

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