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Trial starts for Napoleon mother charged in 13-month-old's drug overdose death

NAPOLEON – Jayme Schwenkmeyer isn't charged with murder.

During opening statements in the Liberty Center woman's trial Wednesday, Henry County Prosecutor John Hanna said Ms. Schwenkmeyer isn't accused of purposefully taking her 13-month-old daughter's life. Instead, she is charged with recklessly violating her duty of care to the point where the youngster died.

Ms. Schwenkmeyer, 24, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the Aug. 15, 2007 death of Kamryn Gerken at a Napoleon apartment they shared with Ms. Schwenkmeyer's then-boyfriend, David E. Knepley.

Mr. Hanna told jurors the evidence to be presented at trial will show she called the Fulton County Health Center near Wauseon for advice about her daughter during the night because Kamryn was fussy and hiccupping for hours. He said she was advised to take her to the emergency room if the symptoms did not subside.

"The defendant did not take her to the hospital. The defendant did nothing," Mr. Hanna said, adding that Ms. Schwenkmeyer ultimately left her daughter in the care of Mr. Knepley and did not check on her until 1 p.m. when she found Kamryn in her crib cold and unresponsive.

An autopsy would later show the child died from an overdose of multiple drugs, including the painkiller oxycodone.

Defense attorney Dave Klucas told the jury medical professionals found no signs of abuse, neglect, malnutrition, or "mistreatment of any sort."

He said Ms. Schwenkmeyer had been up all night with Kamryn and went to sleep when Kamryn fell asleep about 5:30 a.m. He contended the child did not die accidentally, but was given "a massive dose of Oxycontin" while in the care of Mr. Knepley.

"While Jayme slept, there was a non-accidental ingestion of Oxycontin," Mr. Klucas said. "And there's no evidence [Jayme] saw this coming."

Mr. Knepley, 50, of Napoleon is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 18 on the same charges facing Ms. Schwenkmeyer.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors delivered their opening statements Wednesday morning after spending two days selecting a jury.

The trials were delayed in January after The Blade filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to overturn a gag order imposed by Common Pleas Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld that barred the media from reporting on Ms. Schwenkmeyer's trial until a jury was seated for Mr. Knepley's trial. The high court sided with the newspaper, saying the order was unconstitutional.

Her trial is expected to last all week.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.

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