The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 14, 2018 1:00 am

Mother accused in death claims rights denied

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A New Haven woman charged in the January death of her 2-year-old daughter was denied an attorney for hours and felt pressured by police to sign paperwork allowing them to search her property, court documents said.

A motion to suppress evidence filed in Allen Superior Court also says police did not read Crystal M. Belcher her Miranda rights.

Belcher, 29, is charged with two counts of felony neglect in the death of Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher. Firefighters were called Jan. 27 to a home on East Butler Street, where they found the girl tangled in a blanket.

JoJo had been dead at least two hours when emergency crews arrived, court documents said, and doctors told police they found injuries that had healed but were consistent with abuse.

Prosecutors charged Belcher in April, and a warrant was issued April 23 for the arrest of her boyfriend, Shane A. Patton, 32, who is also charged with neglect in the girl's death.

According to the motion filed by defense attorney Samuel L. Bolinger, Belcher asked at least six times for a lawyer while being questioned at her home and at the Fort Wayne Police Department. Police arrived at her home at 11:36 a.m., and she asked to call an attorney shortly after, the motion said.

Investigators at the same time pressured Belcher to sign documents giving them permission to search the home, court records allege. She was distraught over the loss of her daughter, she alleges, and says police were aggressive in urging her to sign.

“At this time I felt highly coerced,” the motion stated. “Another officer came over and indicated I did not need a lawyer.”

Miranda rights were read about 3 p.m. Jan. 27, and Belcher spoke to an attorney the next day, according to the motion.

One of Belcher's children told police Patton typically put JoJo to bed, wrapped in a blanket, a probable cause affidavit states. The child allegedly said she often heard Patton smack JoJo and that he covered her face when he wrapped her in the blanket.

Medics who arrived at the home in January said they found JoJo unresponsive and covered in bruises. The cause of death was neck compression, the county coroner's office reported.

Belcher's trial is scheduled for Oct. 2. A judge has not ruled on the motion to suppress.

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