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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011

Mother sentenced to prison in child's death

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jayme Schwenkmeyer pleaded no contest to reckless homicide in the drug overdose death of her 13-month-old daughter, Kamryn Gerken. A judge ordered her to serve four years in prison, with credit for 333 days she's already served. Jayme Schwenkmeyer pleaded no contest to reckless homicide in the drug overdose death of her 13-month-old daughter, Kamryn Gerken. A judge ordered her to serve four years in prison, with credit for 333 days she's already served.
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NAPOLEON -- Jayme Schwenkmeyer was sentenced to prison Tuesday -- not for giving her young daughter the drugs that killed her but because she was aware the toddler was given drugs and failed to protect her, authorities said.

Schwenkmeyer, 25, of Liberty Center, Ohio, was taken into custody after being sentenced to four years in prison for her role in the drug overdose death of her 13-month-old daughter, Kamryn Gerken.

Henry County Common Pleas Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld imposed the prison sentence jointly recommended by the prosecutor and defense and gave Schwenkmeyer credit for 333 days that she had served in custody. The judge also ordered a $10,000 fine.

Schwenkmeyer, who is also known by her married name, Jayme Novak, pleaded no contest March 29 to a reduced charge of reckless homicide stemming from the Aug. 15, 2007, death of her daughter.

Authorities said Schwenkmeyer, originally charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangering, failed to protect Kamryn from a lethal dose of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and the painkiller oxycodone.

Evidence showed that Kamryn ingested the Xanax 12 to 24 hours before her death and was given the oxycodone two to 10 hours before she died. Schwenkmeyer, who two months ago gave birth to a son, was present in the apartment when her daughter ingested the drugs, authorities said.

"All I wanted the court to know is the young lady standing before the court this morning was no way near the same person who was standing before the court when she was arraigned," Schwenkmeyer's attorney, David Klucas, said after the hearing. "There was an evolution on her part."

Kamryn's family members, including her father and paternal grandmother, were in court Tuesday and an impact statement was read to the judge on their behalf.

The family asked that a fine be a part of Schwenkmeyer's sentence to fund educational programs for single mothers with substance abuse problems.

"In this kind of a case, there are no winners and losers," Mr. Klucas said. "I'm entirely empathetic to the feelings of the dad's side of the family. I think what tends to get lost in the shuffle is the feelings on [Schwenkmeyer's] family.

"For this to be over for Jayme, for her family, and for the Gerken family, that's good," he said.

Henry County Prosecutor John Hanna could not be reached after the hearing.

Also convicted in the child's death was David E. Knepley, 51, of Napoleon, who was living with Schwenkmeyer at the time. Knepley, who is being held in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker, was convicted in a jury trial last month of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.

Because the crimes were committed with the same state of mind, under the law the sentences would merge, meaning Knepley faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced April 12.

The resolution in Schwenkmeyer's case came just days before she was to have gone on trial a third time.

Her first trial in December, 2009, ended in a mistrial because the prosecutor failed to disclose statements Schwenkmeyer allegedly made to the Henry County coroner.

At a second trial last August, she was found guilty on both counts, but Judge Muehlfeld set aside the guilty verdicts after it was learned the prosecutor had failed to disclose witness statements.

Both the Schwenkmeyer and Knepley trials were delayed in part because Judge Muehlfeld issued a gag order that would have prevented the media from reporting on Schwenkmeyer's case until a jury had been seated for Knepley's.

The judge said at the time he did not want the potential jury pool for the second trial to be tainted by media coverage of the first.

The Blade filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court, which struck down the gag order as "patently unconstitutional."

The high court said the judge had a duty to give equal weight to a defendant's right to a fair trial and the media's right of free speech and press.

Contract Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-3134.



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