MILWAUKEE – A 76-year-old Wisconsin woman accused of killing her infant daughter more than a half-century ago will serve 45 days in jail and 10 years’ probation, under a plea agreement approved Monday.
Ruby Klokow was charged with second-degree murder in the 1957 death of her 6-month-old daughter, Jeaneen, only after her son, James Klokow Jr., came forward in 2008 with horrific stories of childhood abuse.
District Attorney Joe De Cecco cited Klokow’s advanced age and health as factors in the agreement approved by Sheboygan County District Judge Angela Sutkiewicz.
De Cecco said if Klokow had been tried, she might have been acquitted altogether and walked free. A jury could no longer have convicted her of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter, because of the statute of limitations.
No charges were filed after Jeaneen’s death in 1957. Ruby Klokow told the police that the baby had fallen off a sofa while she was tending to a crying James.
An autopsy found that Jeaneen had suffered two brain hemorrhages, a partially collapsed lung and three scalp bruises.
At a preliminary hearing five decades later, a forensic pathologist who reviewed documents in the case testified that the severity of the injuries didn’t match Klokow’s explanation.
According to a criminal complaint, Klokow admitted causing her daughter’s death.
Klokow had been free pending trial and will remain free until formal sentencing April 15. After the plea hearing, she told reporters, “It’s not over until it’s over.”
Her attorney, Kirk Obear, said he thought the case against Klokow was unfair.
“There were witnesses that could have been interviewed that have long since died,” he said.
Scott Klokow, another of Ruby Klokow’s children, was found dead in his crib seven years after Jeaneen died. No charges have been filed in his death.
Obear noted that Jeaneen and Scott were exhumed but that nothing was discovered at odds with the initial accidental death rulings.
DeCecco’s announcement last week of a plea agreement came as a relief to James Klokow, now 57. He said he had feared his mother “turning and questioning (him) on the stand.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, he said his mother had regularly beaten and choked him.
The case was delayed several times after Klokow was charged in 2011, including for mental tests to see whether she was competent to stand trial.