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Published: Friday, 6/6/2003

Jury convicts dad in baby's death


PORT CLINTON - In a case the judge called “gut-wrenching,” a Port Clinton man has been convicted of causing the scalding death of his 9-month-old daughter last fall.

After deliberating for three hours, a jury of nine women and three men found Daniel Hickle, 20, guilty Wednesday in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. Chasity Hickle died Sept. 21 at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, Toledo, a day after suffering severe burns in a tub of hot water.

According to testimony, Hickle and a friend, Larry Kenneth Keith, were asleep the afternoon of Sept. 20 when the baby ended up in the tub. Police theorized that Chasity's 2-year-old sister turned on the hot-water spigot, and the infant either fell in or was helped by the toddler.

The 2-year-old “woke the defendant up and said, `Daddy, tub. Daddy, tub,'” said Lorrain Croy, an assistant county prosecutor. “We don't know how [Chasity] got in.”

Ms. Croy said the verdict was scant comfort to Chasity's mother, Jennifer, and her family.

“Even though he's convicted, it doesn't bring Chasity back,” she said. “The real problem is, the family's going to have to deal with this for a long time. Hopefully, the message gets out that parents must be responsible for their children.”

Hickle's attorney, Ernest Bollinger of Oregon, declined to comment on the verdict. The defense rested without calling any witnesses.

Hickle faces three to 10 years for involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, and one to five years for reckless homicide, a third-degree felony. Ms. Croy said Hickle, who is to be sentenced Aug. 8, likely would be given concurrent prison terms by Judge Paul Moon.

“I believe they're crimes of similar import, and the maximum he'll get is 10” years, she said.

Judge Moon revoked Hickle's bond and ordered him held in the Ottawa County jail until sentencing. During the trial, the judge called it “the most gut-wrenching” case that he has ever handled.

During testimony, the jurors were shown photos of Chasity in the hospital, where she was treated for burns over more than 90 percent of her body.

“It is difficult,” Ms. Croy said. “Just seeing the photographs was enough.”

Hickle's wife, Jennifer, testified that she bought beer for her husband and Keith, then awoke before dawn Sept. 20 to find them drinking and playing chess. She went to work, leaving her husband and Keith with the children.

“His behavior, the jury just found that was beyond what parents should be allowed to do,” Ms. Croy said. “He was reckless when he stayed up all night.”

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