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More charges given in girl’s death

December 6, 2018

Prosecutors have filed more serious charges against a New Haven mother and her boyfriend in the January death of the woman’s 2-year-old daughter.

Crystal Belcher, 29, and Shane Patton, 31, each were charged in April with two counts of felony neglect punishable by 181/2 years in prison. Prosecutors last week filed an additional felony neglect charge for Belcher and Patton that carries a penalty of up to 40 additional years behind bars if they are convicted.

Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher was found dead Jan. 27 in the family’s home. Investigators said she was stiff, wrapped tight in a blanket and cold to the touch.

An autopsy revealed a hemorrhage in the girl’s neck, and the Allen County coroner said the cause of death was neck compression. The toddler also had injuries : such as forearm fractures that had healed : that were consistent with abuse, court documents said.

Motions filed in Allen Superior Court by Deputy Prosecutors Patricia Pikel and Brent Ecenbarger to add the upgraded count to Belcher and Patton’s cases state “the facts support a count of neglect of a dependent, a Level 1 felony.”

The documents do not specify whether new evidence led to filing the additional count or why it was filed months after they were first charged.

Judge Fran Gull is scheduled to consider the motions Dec. 19.

In a separate filing Tuesday, prosecutors asked Gull to order Belcher to be more specific regarding a notice she filed in November to rely on a “defense of accident/inadvertence” at trial.

Samuel Bolinger, Belcher’s attorney, wrote in court documents his client did not intend to harm JoJo and “did not act negligently and/or with criminal negligence.” The documents state Belcher “was engaged in lawful conduct” at the time of the girl’s death.

But Pikel and Ecenbarger argue the notice leaves out specific information including what Belcher was doing at the time of the girl’s death and when.

Gull also will consider prosecutors’ request for a more specific statement at the Dec. 19 hearing, as well as a request from Bolinger to combine the trials of Belcher and Patton. Doing so makes sense because both cases include the same witnesses and evidence, Bolinger has argued. Patton is fighting the request.

mleblanc@jg.net

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