The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 20, 2018 1:00 am

Mom accused in child's death to rely on defense of accident

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The New Haven woman charged with felony neglect in the January death of her 2-year-old daughter did not intend to harm the girl and “did not act negligently and/or with criminal negligence,” her lawyer argues.

“At the time of the child's death she was engaged in lawful conduct,” Samuel Bolinger wrote last week.

The claims are included in a one-page filing in Allen Superior Court that shows Crystal Belcher will rely on a “defense of accident/inadvertence” at trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 15.

Separate filings ask a judge to reconsider a motion that was denied last month to suppress evidence gathered at the scene of the crime and to consolidate the trials of Belcher, 29, and Shane A. Patton. She and Patton, 31, each are charged with two counts of felony neglect in Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher's death.

Emergency workers arrived at the family's home Jan. 27 to find JoJo wrapped tight in a blanket and “cold to the touch with rigor mortis,” according to court documents. The toddler had been dead at least two hours, doctors told police, and an autopsy revealed a hemorrhage in her neck.

The cause of death was neck compression, the Allen County coroner said. Doctors quoted in a probable cause affidavit say JoJo had injuries consistent with abuse, and testimony Nov. 2 from a therapist who examined four of her siblings backed up those statements.

Staci Rader, the therapist, said each child indicated Patton – Belcher's boyfriend – was abusive.

Prosecutors charged Belcher and Patton in April, but only Belcher was arrested at the time. Patton disappeared, and police arrested him Oct. 17 – after a court hearing in which Belcher asked a judge to set aside evidence gathered by investigators because she had allegedly been denied an attorney, not been read her Miranda rights and felt pressured by police.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull rejected the request, finding Belcher waived her Miranda rights and voluntarily spoke to police without a lawyer.

Bolinger is asking Gull to reconsider so Patton can testify as to Belcher's allegations.

“Mr. Patton is critical to (Belcher's) case-in-chief as to suppression issues at trial,” he wrote in a motion filed Thursday.

Bolinger declined to comment on the case Monday but argues in another request the trials should be consolidated because both cases feature “common issues of law and facts” such as witnesses and evidence. Consolidation also would save money, he wrote.

A message left for Patton's attorney, Ryan Gardner, was not returned. Patton's trial is scheduled March 5.

Sign up for our crime and courts newsletter

Sent daily when events warrant