Woman pleads guilty to child neglect in starvation case, is placed on probation

May 07, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Karen Sue Boback
Karen Sue Boback

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A 45-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to two felony charges of gross child neglect for her alleged role in the starvation of two young children in 2010.

Karen Sue Boback, who now lives in Hagerstown, was placed on probation for five years in lieu of what would have amounted to a two- to 10-year prison sentence, which was suspended by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes.

Boback also was fined $1,000 and must register with the child abuse registry for 10 years.

Dressed in a black pinstripe suit, Boback admitted in court Monday that she should have reported how her then-boyfriend, Jesse A. Lafferty, was neglecting his two children.

“I guess I didn’t call the authorities ... I should have stepped up,” said Boback, who wiped tears from her eyes as she was being sentenced during Monday’s plea and sentencing hearing.

In August 2010, Lafferty’s 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were found in a starved condition that “resembled what you would find in Third World countries,” Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said in court last week.

The children were forced to stay in the unfinished basement of the Labonte Drive home that Boback rented and were deprived of food as a form of punishment, Games-Neely said.

Authorities found little more than a small piece of carpet, a baby monitor, a couple of blankets and a portable toilet for the children in the locked basement, according to court documents. Boback’s two children, who also stayed at the home, were found unharmed, Games-Neely has said.

In sentencing Boback, Wilkes noted Boback’s lack of criminal history and indicated she “lived up to (her) side of the bargain” in being ready to testify against Lafferty and cooperate with the state to prosecute him.

Lafferty, 34, is due to be sentenced July 16. He pleaded guilty last month to two counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury.

Boback, who served about 16 months in jail after the children were found, was released on supervised bond about five months ago, defense attorney Nicholas F. Colvin told the court.

In arguing for probation, Colvin said Boback had no prior criminal history “of any kind” and had been fully cooperative with authorities since her release from jail.

Games-Neely conceded Boback was cooperative with law enforcement, but asked Wilkes to order Boback to serve the remainder of her one- to five-year prison sentences concurrently for what was an “egregious act against these children.”

Games-Neely later told the court that she didn’t take exception to the judge’s suspension of the sentences. By ordering probation and suspending one- to five-year prison terms to be served consecutively, Wilkes told Boback she instead has a much greater sentence hanging over her head.

Boback would not have had to complete probation had she been ordered to serve what little remained of the concurrent prison sentence, which was previously considered as part of a plea agreement.

In reviewing the case, Wilkes said his sentencing decision took into consideration the relationship Boback had with Lafferty and noted her role in the neglect was failure to report the maltreatment, rather than abuse of the children herself.

Games-Neely said after the hearing that the couple parented their own biological children when Lafferty moved into Boback’s home.

Boback had told police at the time of her arrests that Lafferty withheld food from his children for more than 24 hours at a time, made them take cold showers, spanked them with a belt and made them spend nights on a cold, concrete floor in the basement.

The refrigerator was padlocked and a deadbolt was found on the food pantry, according to court documents.

The biological mother of Lafferty’s children now has custody of them, Games-Neely has said.

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