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Published: Thursday, 8/26/2010

Baby death: Mother hysterical, ER nurses tell jurors

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - A hysterical and inconsolable Jayme Schwenkmeyer arrived at the emergency room of Henry County Hospital on Aug. 15, 2007, screaming, "Help my baby! Help my baby!"

Two nurses on duty that afternoon testified Wednesday that her baby - 13-month-old Kamryn Gerken - was unresponsive, cold, and becoming stiff when Ms. Schwenkmeyer brought her into the emergency room about 1:30 p.m. The child could not be revived, they said.

An autopsy would show Kamryn died from an overdose of multiple drugs, including the painkiller oxycodone and the primary ingredient in the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. Both Ms. Schwenkmeyer, 24, of Liberty Center and the man with whom she lived, David E. Knepley, 48, of Napoleon, were indicted by a Henry County grand jury for involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.

Just how the child ingested those drugs is not known, Henry County Prosecutor John Hanna told jurors during his opening statements yesterday at Ms. Schwenkmeyer's trial in Henry County Common Pleas Court.

"No one saw what happened. The only people who would ever know that would be the people who were in the apartment that night," he said, adding that Ms. Schwenkmeyer was not charged with murder because investigators did not believe she purposefully caused her daughter's death.

The charges allege she was negligent in her duty of care and protection as a parent, he said, and that negligence directly led to her daughter's death.

"The defendant had an obligation to protect and care for Kamryn. She recklessly violated that duty," Mr. Hanna said. "… She had this duty and you'll hear from Detective [Mike] Cass, in her words, 'It was my duty to protect Kamryn and I didn't do it and I'm responsible.' "

Defense attorney Dave Klucas countered that Ms. Schwenkmeyer admittedly used drugs but that she kept her daughter healthy, clean, and fed. He said she was up with her most of the night before Kamryn died because she had been fussy and had had the hiccups for several hours.

She phoned a nurse at the Fulton County Health Center for advice, he said, and went to sleep when Kamryn fell asleep around 5:30 a.m.

"At that time, the child was left with Mr. Knepley and only Mr. Knepley. Mr. Knepley was charged with the care of Kamryn at that time while Jayme slept because she had been up all night," Mr. Klucas said. "In between Jayme going to sleep early in the morning Aug. 15 and 1 o'clock in the afternoon on Aug. 15, Kamryn Gerken received a massive dose of Oxycontin."

Kris Belknap, the registered nurse who spoke with Ms. Schwenkmeyer on the phone that night, said the young mother called about 12:50 a.m. and described Kamryn's symptoms.

She said she told Ms. Schwenkmeyer she didn't know why her daughter had the hiccups but told her if she was concerned, she should bring her to the emergency room.

Under cross-examination, Ms. Belknap said the call did not give her cause for alarm.

While it's unclear whether Ms. Schwenkmeyer will take the stand, the jury heard from her yesterday when prosecutors played a tape-recorded statement she gave to Henry County sheriff's detective Sgt. Joe Gibson in November, 2007. In the tape, Ms. Schwenkmeyer tells the investigator Mr. Knepley had provided her with his prescription Oxycontin and Xanax between May and November 2007. She said she would crush the Oxycontin tablets and inhale them.

Among those taking the stand yesterday was Kamryn's father, Alvin Gerken, who told the jury his daughter always seemed well cared for by Ms. Schwenkmeyer except on two occasions he saw his daughter in Mr. Knepley's pickup without a car seat. He also said he believed Ms. Schwenkmeyer was high when he saw her on those occasions and when she was at the funeral home for their daughter's showing.

Gerken, who is in prison for a probation violation from a felony theft conviction, admitted under questioning that he abuses drugs and said he knows what people look like when they are under the influence of drugs.

He said he went to the hospital the day Kamryn died and asked Ms. Schwenkmeyer what had happened.

"Jayme kept saying, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry,'•" he recalled.

Testimony is to resume at 9 a.m. today.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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