An Elkins man received the maximum allowable sentence Monday in a child neglect case after the judge questioned the veracity of the man's explanation.
Earl Casey Woods, 22, will spend 1-10 years in prison and was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine by Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong. Woods had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury in May.
As part of the sentencing, Woods will have to register with the West Virginia State Police as a child abuser for 10 years and will be placed on supervised probation for up to 20 years following his release from prison.
Woods, sobbing throughout his testimony, said he doesn't know what caused the injuries to the child in October 2012, saying that he knew nothing happened to the child while he was under Woods' care.
Police officers responded to an alleged domestic dispute in October, and they reported hearing a child "shrieking in pain," Wilfong said. The child was taken to Davis Memorial Hospital where he was treated for rib injuries and bruises, injuries an expert report stated were caused by "forcible squeezing."
"To suggest these injuries were accidental and that Mr. Woods has no idea of what happened is ludicrous," Wilfong said. "It could not have happened from accidentally falling. Whatever happened, happened before the deputies got there. Either you know, or you are covering for somebody; I don't believe otherwise. The bottom line is, there is no question in my mind that you know what happened to the child."
Defense attorney Dwight Hall said Woods agreed to the plea deal because he believed he allowed his child to be around an "improper person who did do something." Woods testified that "it is my responsibility as a father to protect my child."
Wilfong, however, said Woods' testimony was contrary to other statements contained in the various court documents.
"I have a problem with this case, the information Mr. Woods presents and the lack of accountability," Wilfong said.
Wilfong also expressed concern that all four letters sent to the court on Woods' behalf all asked for the felony to be dropped. She said she had not seen so many letters so closely related.
"Either Mr. Woods or somebody on his behalf told them what to put in the letters," the judge said.
Wilfong continued the sentencing hearing for Woods' co-defendant, Johnetta Murin. She had also pleaded guilty to child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury during a May hearing. Her attorney, Timothy Prentice, said Murin had recently undergone surgery and was still under the influence of her medication.
Wilfong revoked her bond and ordered Murin taken into custody to await a July 31 hearing.