Massachusetts Foster Mother Found Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter in Four-Year-Old’s Death

Corrine Stephen, a 25-year-old Massachusetts foster mother, was found guilty of causing the death of four-year-old Dontel Jeffers because she did not get him medical help immediately after he was severely beaten. Stephen had been charged with second-degree murder, but yesterday was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by the Suffolk County Superior Court jury.

During the trial, prosecutors showed no evidence that Stephen abused Dontel. They based their case on reasons why the foster mother should be held criminally responsible for Dontel’s death. Rather than getting him medical treatment, she gave him a large does of Tylenol with codeine. They also say that she did nothing while others attacked the boy.

Stephen’s sentencing is scheduled for December 5. Her criminal defense attorney says he will appeal the case because the judge made a mistake when informing jury members that failure to do something can be considered a malicious act.

Dontel was placed in Stephen’s care on February 24, 2005. 10 days later, she arrived at Caritas Carney hospital with the boy, who had a black eye, bruised throat, ruptured intestine, bruised arms, and ligature marks around his ankles and wrists. Doctors were unable to revive Dontel. A blow to his stomach gave him a fatal infection.

Forensic pathologists determined that Dontel died from Child Abuse Syndrome, which consists of repetitive abuse over a period of time.

Stephen’s lawyer says that police did not conduct the necessary forensic tests to identify other potential suspects who could have beaten Dontel nor did they look hard enough for the Dontel’s real killer.

Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is the accidental killing of a person caused by the defendant’s reckless or criminal actions. “Involuntary” refers to the fact that the defendant did not mean to kill the victim.

In Massachusetts, an involuntary manslaughter conviction carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.

Guilty verdict reached in Dontel Jeffers case, Boston Herald, November 16, 2007
Foster mother found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in death of boy, 4,, November 16, 2007

Related Web Resources:

Massachusetts General Laws

Violent Crimes Overview, Justia
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