WHEELING - Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone sentenced Robin Reed to three to 15 years in prison Monday after she admitted her neglect of her 1-year-old son caused his death in January 2011.
Reed's attorney, Donald Tennant Jr., said Mazzone's recent ruling that the 21-year-old's "letter to God" was admissible evidence during a potential trial prompted his client to accept a plea agreement from the prosecution. In that letter, which Reed wrote in jail, she asked for forgiveness for an unspecified act and stated "I did it."
In a case in which the defense and prosecution hotly contested nearly every significant detail, the parties offered opposing causes of death Monday. Tennant called the boy's death a "prototypical" case of shaken baby syndrome, while Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Jenna Perkins maintained he died from a single head injury inflicted by his mother.
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Robin Reed weeps while her attorney, Donald Tennant Jr., attempts to console her during a hearing in Ohio County Circuit Court on Monday.
Perkins added that the boy was found wearing only a diaper in a cold home, and he was lying in deplorable conditions.
"He passed away lying in a sheetless, egg crate mattress on plywood that was filthy, reeking of urine and wet," Perkins said.
Reed admitted that on the night her son died she argued with a coworker at the exotic dance club where she worked before coming home and also fighting with her mother.
"When I got home that night me and my mother got into an argument - a huge argument - and both my kids ended up waking up," she said. "I grabbed my son from her and I kept bouncing him, trying to soothe him so he would go to sleep. I bounced him for awhile on my chest, he went to sleep and I laid him down. And when I woke up the next day, I found my son."
Reed then broke down and was unable to speak through her intense weeping. She eventually regained her composure before apologizing.
"I'm sorry for the way everything happened," Reed said. "I would never intentionally hurt my kids, ever, and I love both my babies so much."
Tennant claimed Reed's son suffered from failure to thrive syndrome. The boy's neck was underdeveloped as a result, he continued, and Reed unintentionally and fatally injured him while bouncing him that evening. Tennant called it a tragic aligning of the stars.
"What happened to this child," Perkins protested, "is the stars aligned that he was born to this mother.
"She was mad at the strip club because she got in a fight over a guy," Perkins continued. "She was mad at her mother when she got home and in anger, she took this child in her own hands and she inflicted a fatal injury upon him. And worse yet, she covered up the evidence."
Reed instantly turned her head away when Perkins showed Tennant photos of the deceased child before entering them into evidence.
In addition to her guilty plea Monday, Reed voluntarily relinquished parental rights to her 3-year-old daughter.
The girl was placed in foster care after police responding to the boy's death witnessed her walking around the cold house barely clothed.
In exchange for her plea, the prosecution dismissed a charge of death of a child by parent against Reed.
Wheeling police found Reed's son dead upon their arrival at her 1139 Grandview St. home the morning of Jan. 22.
Reed initially told investigators she was home with the boy all night prior to the day he died. She said she woke the next day at 5:30 a.m. to feed the child and change his diaper before going back to bed.
When Reed woke again a few hours later, she said, she found her son unresponsive and attempted to perform CPR before calling emergency personnel.
However, Reed contacted police in April 2011 and admitted she lied about the events leading up to her son's death.
In a second interview, Reed told police the child was asleep at home with his grandmother before she left at 10 p.m. the night before the boy died. She said she returned to the home at 2 a.m. and did not wake at 5:30 a.m. to feed her son, but found the boy unresponsive after waking at 9 a.m.
Reed has been in jail since July 2011, when she was arrested days after an autopsy report stated her son died as the result of an abusive closed-head injury.
The report further states the manner of death to be homicide.