Dad WILLIAM MORGAN ECHARD II has been found guilty in the child abuse death of his infant daughter. He could be serving up to 35 years in prison.
Hat tip to Blue.
Echard found guilty in death of daughter
by Matt Harvey Assistant Managing Editor
Sunday, July 4, 2010 6:34 AM CDT
CLARKSBURG — Emily Maree Echard was on this earth for 147 days — from Feb. 26, 2009, to July 20 of that year — before she died from child abuse.
Now her father, 28-year-old William Morgan Echard II, could be looking at spending about 12,800 days (around 35 years) behind bars for his role in Emily’s death. He will find out more about his possible incarceration on Aug. 25, the date Harrison Circuit Judge Thomas A. Bedell has set for sentencing.
A jury of nine women and three men deliberated a total of about 4 1/2 hours over two days before returning their verdicts in Echard’s trial around noon Friday. Echard sat with two fingers to the right side of his temple, showing no apparent emotion, as the verdicts were read.
Jurors convicted Echard of death of a child by parent, guardian, custodian or other person by child abuse; four counts of child abuse resulting in injury; three counts of child neglect resulting in injury; and one count of presentation of false information regarding a child’s injuries.
The jury acquitted Echard of two counts of child abuse resulting in injury.
The defense has the option of appealing to the state Supreme Court.
Bedell previously had granted a defense motion to dismiss a charge of murder of a child by parent, guardian or custodian or other person by refusal or failure to supply necessities. The judge ruled no evidence had been presented to support the allegations on that charge, which could have sent Echard to prison for life.
On the convictions, jurors specifically found Echard guilty of causing Emily’s death by shaking her on July 16, 2009; and of abusing his daughter by shaking her on April 15, July 7 and July 14 of 2009. They found Echard guilty of squeezing his daughter on April 15, 2009, as well; Assistant Prosecutor Pat McCarty and Harrison Sheriff’s Lt. Pat McCarty had asserted the latter was when Emily suffered two broken ribs.
Jurors also determined Echard failed to obtain medical treatment for his daughter on April 15, July 7 and July 14 of 2009, and that he presented false information to medical personnel in Harrison County on July 16, 2009, as she was taken for treatment — never to return home.
On the acquittals, jurors found Echard innocent of squeezing his daughter’s face July 7, 2009, and throwing her on a deck July 14, 2009.
Harrison Prosecutor Joe Shaffer said he would ask for the maximum possible sentence.
That would be 40 years in prison for death of a child by parent, guardian, custodian or other person by child abuse; a total of four to 20 more years in prison for the four counts of child abuse resulting in injury; a total of three to nine years more in prison for the three counts of child neglect resulting in injury; and up to a year in jail for the misdemeanor of presentation of false information regarding a child’s injuries.
If Bedell hands down the maximum, Echard, without making parole, could discharge the 40-year term in 20 years through day-for-day good time credit; the four counts of child abuse resulting in injury in 10 years through good time credit; the three counts of child neglect resulting in injury in 4 1/2 years through good time credit; and serve the year in jail on the misdemeanor.
But if Bedell sentences Echard to that term, and the defendant is able to make parole at the first possible chance on each charge, he could be released in about 18 years.
Bedell also could run all the sentences at the same time, likely to be requested by defense lawyers Nancy Ulrich and LeAnn Shuck. In that event, Echard would have to serve a minimum of 10 years before becoming eligible for parole.
“We feel it’s appropriate to ask for the maximum possible sentence based on the conduct, and based on the defendant’s lack of acceptance of responsibility,” Shaffer said.
Echard denied wrongdoing during the trial, and said he loved his daughter. Ulrich and Shuck contended their client’s lack of sophistication might have made him easily influenced by McCarty. That was a position rejected by Hall, who pointed to a tape of the statement and the fact that another person was on hand when Echard made those remarks.
Shaffer said McCarty did “a wonderful job” investigating the case, and worked in an “honest and detailed” fashion.
Also, “I think this is the best case that Kurt Hall has ever worked up since he’s been with me,” Shaffer said. “He did a very commendable job in presenting it to the jury.”
Hall has been with Shaffer since the prosecutor took office early this century.
The next step in the case is for codefendant Amber Elizabeth Messenger to have a plea hearing July 27. Messenger, 22 and the child’s mother, is to enter a plea to felony child neglect resulting in death, Hall has said.
Hall and defense attorney April Conner would join in recommending Messenger serve the prison term that accompanies the charge, which is three to 15 years, Hall has said.