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Woman pleads guilty to child endangerment after 'crack party'

February 17, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Waynesboro, Pa., woman whose infant son died after a crack cocaine party at her home deserved the "whipping post," according to the Franklin County judge who sentenced her Wednesday to five years on probation.

"If we had a whipping post out here in Franklin County square, I'd order you to get a bunch of lashes," President Judge John R. Walker told Amy E. Sheffler before imposing the sentence.

Sheffler, 21, who is pregnant and has a 4-year-old child, was never accused of having caused the baby's death, according to Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson.

"There is no evidence or allegation that her conduct actually caused the child's death," Nelson said during the sentencing. He said 6-week-old Triston Michael Sheffler apparently died of sudden infant death syndrome.

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She had pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of seven years. In exchange for the plea agreement, charges of corruption of minors, reckless endangerment, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana were dismissed.

Sheffler was living at 240 Larch Ave., Chambersburg, when her son was found dead in a bassinet on the evening of June 7, 1998. According to the borough police affidavit of probable cause, Coroner Kenneth L. Peiffer estimated the baby had been dead at least four hours.

Police obtained a search warrant after a homemade drug pipe was seen in the kitchen, the affidavit stated. "Numerous items of drug paraphernalia" were found in the house, along with a small bag of marijuana.

"Dirty diapers, cold pizza, half-filled glasses and dirty baby bottles" were also found in the home, according to police.

The affidavit said two women who were in the house the night before told investigators that three men joined them and they all were smoking crack and marijuana and drinking. One man was "cooking crack cocaine in the kitchen," the affidavit said.

The report described the situation as "'crack for rent.' The males would provide Sheffler with crack cocaine for allowing them to use her residence."

A neighbor told police the baby cried for about an hour at 2:30 a.m. on June 7 and again at about 7 a.m. Two women told police Triston was having trouble breathing in the days before his death.

"It wasn't a long period of drug use," Sheffler said. She said she had been using drugs for about a month.

"I hope the babies of this world have better moms than smoke crack all night and sleep all day," Walker told her.

Walker ordered Sheffler to undergo drug and alcohol treatment, six months of intense supervision by the Probation Department and to take parenting classes.

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