Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dad pleads guilty to murder of 2-month-old daughter (Erie, Pennsylvania)

Dad is identified as WENDELL T. MULKEY.

Corry father to plead guilty in infant death

ERIE, Pa. -- A Corry father plans to plead guilty to third-degree murder in the March 2014 death of his 2-month-old daughter, his lawyer said.

Wendell T. Mulkey, 27, who had been scheduled to face trial Monday, is now scheduled for a plea hearing that day before Erie County Judge Daniel Brabender, according to court records.

Mulkey's lawyer, Eric Hackwelder, said Mulkey intends to plead guilty to felony charges of third-degree murder, aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

The child, identified in court records as "S.M.," died of abusive head trauma March 10, 2014, at UPMC's Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. An autopsy showed she also suffered 34 fractures to her ribs and leg bones that were in various stages of healing.

The plea would allow Mulkey to avoid the possibility of a life sentence. Had Mulkey gone to trial, the prosecution planned to seek a conviction for first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life with no parole.

Hackwelder said the plea decision was driven in part by the fact the infant's mother, Miranda C. Fay, 21, entered a plea agreement Friday and pledged to testify against Mulkey at his trial. Hackwelder also said that statements Fay and Mulkey made to investigators could have been used against Mulkey at trial.

Hackwelder said some infant death cases are resolved with pleas to involuntary manslaughter, which is a death caused by a defendant's recklessness, but Mulkey's daughter had multiple injuries, some of them healing.

"That is why we came to the conclusion we did," he said.

His client, Hackwelder said, is also deeply remorseful.

"It was his call. That is what he wanted to do. I think it is the right call," he said.

First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz declined to comment.

Third-degree murder is a malicious, unintentional killing. It carries a 20-year maximum sentence.

The case began with Fay's 911 call on March 10, 2014.

A doctor who examined S.M. in the hospital in Pittsburgh discovered bruises on the baby's face, back and chest. S.M.'s brain and retinas were bleeding, the doctor said.

She concluded S.M. died of abusive head trauma and physical abuse.

According to a criminal complaint, Mulkey and Fay told investigators in a March 11, 2014, interview that the baby had not had any medical problems before her death. They said she was solely in their care in their home on East Airport Road in Corry.

Mulkey admitted he had lost his temper and shaken S.M. on previous occasions, investigators said.

He also said that on one occasion while changing the baby's diaper, he heard her leg make a "popping" sound, which he said might have been her leg breaking.

Fay pleaded guilty to two third-degree felony charges of endangering the welfare of a child on Friday. She admitted that between Feb. 10 and March 10, 2014, she failed to seek medical help for her child when she knew that the child had suffered a broken leg, rib fractures and severe head injuries, allegedly inflicted by Mulkey.