Dead baby’s parents enter Alford plea

Published 10:26 pm Friday, May 15, 2009

The parents of an 11-month old baby girl who died in December entered an Alford plea to charges of second-degree murder, child abuse and neglect on Thursday.

Linwood and Shawntay Jones, the parents of Zanya Krystina Jones, would have gone to trial June 3 if they had not entered the Alford plea. An Alford plea does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict if the case goes to trial. It has the same effect as a guilty plea if the judge accepts it.

Zanya was 11 months old on Dec. 1, 2008 when someone called 911 to say that she wasn’t breathing. When rescue workers arrived, the baby’s body was cold to the touch, and rigor mortis already was beginning to set in her arms and legs.

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According to prosecutor Marie Walls, the baby weighed the same that day as she did at 5 months of age.

The autopsy indicated that the baby had not eaten for many hours, if not days, Walls said.

“The parents told detectives she had eaten both in the morning and the previous night, and that was inconsistent with the findings of the autopsy,” Walls said. “The doctor conducting the autopsy had to go very low in the intestines to find any byproduct of food.”

The baby had very little body fat, and there was little fluid in the body, evidence of prolonged starvation and dehydration, Walls said.

The conditions of the home investigators found were “egregious,” Walls added. The home had a foul smell, and there was trash littered throughout the home on Third Avenue. The home had not had running water for months. Detectives’ shoes stuck to the floor in the bathroom, and fecal matter stood in the toilet. The only used diapers in the home were bundled up in the medicine cabinet, evidence that the baby was not urinating or defecating as she should have been for her age, Walls said.

“The level of trauma that this child was in was not from missing a day of eating,” Walls said. “It was from starving to death.”

The couple will face sentencing Aug. 3. They could receive up to 42 years in prison.