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Hedgesville woman convicted in son's death

September 03, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A jury in Berkeley County Circuit Court deliberated less than an hour on Thursday before finding a Hedgesville, W.Va., woman guilty in connection with the death of her 7-month-old son in August 2008.

Monica W. Boggs, 20, of 8791 Hedgesville Road, was convicted of three felonies -- death of a child by a parent, custodian or guardian or other person by child abuse; child abuse causing bodily injury; and gross child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury.

Boggs could receive between 10 and 40 years in prison for causing the death of Skylar Boggs and one- to five-year sentences for the other two counts. Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely said 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III will decide whether Boggs should serve the terms of imprisonment consecutively or concurrently.

A sentencing/post-trial motions hearing was set for Nov. 2.

A jail commitment order signed by Silver directed Eastern Regional Jail to "take appropriate (security and medical) precautions as defendant is five months pregnant and to insure her safety due to nature of conviction."

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Defense attorney B. Craig Manford said after the trial he respected the jury's decision, but also anticipated appealing the verdict to the state's highest court.

Boggs was taken to Eastern Regional Jail minutes after jurors were polled individually for their verdict, which was announced at 1:50 p.m. by a deputy circuit court clerk.

Boggs held a tissue to her face and quietly wiped tears from her eyes as the verdict was being read.

In the gallery of the courtroom, Boggs' mother, Donna Boggs, and siblings cried. Donna Boggs began to sob loudly and left the courtroom for several minutes as the deputy circuit clerk finished reading the jury's findings.

"I love you," Boggs' mother said as her daughter was escorted from the courtroom.

Boggs told police she threw Skylar into his crib on Aug. 18, 2008. Skylar's skull was fractured when the boy's head struck a hard plastic toy piano that was in the crib and he died the next day.

In closing arguments Thursday morning, Games-Neely said Boggs' abusive actions, regardless of the financial stresses in the teen mother's life, were "not forgivable."

"It's not appropriate conduct for adults," Games-Neely said. "It's not appropriate for children raising children."

Games-Neely's statement came after Manford reminded the jury in his closing arguments that Boggs was deemed by a psychiatrist to have battled low self-esteem and depression most of her life, was socially immature and still very dependent on her mother.

Boggs became pregnant at age 17, according to witness testimony in the trial, which began Tuesday.

"We have a child raising a child," Manford said.

He said Boggs was wrongfully being portrayed as a "child killer" who acted maliciously in causing Skylar's death.

Manford cited his client's recorded statements to police that were played for the jury as rebuttal evidence.

After throwing the infant into the crib out of frustration, Boggs told police she picked the boy up and patted him on the butt to comfort him, then gave him some milk, Manford recalled.

"She wasn't out to cause this terrible injury," Manford told the jury.

Games-Neely countered in her rebuttal to Manford's closing argument that Boggs' abusive actions were enough to convict her according to state law.

"We don't throw 7-month old babies ... and especially not with enough force to do this," Games-Neely said as she showed jurors a black-and-white photograph that depicted a large fracture on Skylar's skull.

When Boggs told police in interviews she didn't mean to throw him in the crib, "what she meant is, is she didn't mean to kill him," Games-Neely told the jury.

"These kind of cases are tragic on many, many levels," Games-Neely after the trial.

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