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Published: Saturday, 8/28/2010

<br> Henry County mother guilty in death of daughter

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - A Liberty Center woman whose 13-month-old daughter died from a drug overdose was found guilty Friday night of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.

The 12 jurors deliberated for three hours before determining that Jayme Schwenkmeyer, 24, should be held responsible for failing to protect her child.

Schwenkmeyer's daughter, Kamryn Gerken, died Aug. 15, 2007, after ingesting toxic amounts of multiple drugs, including the painkiller oxycodone and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.

Standing between her attorneys, Schwenkmeyer covered her face with her hands and cried as the verdicts were read.

She faces up to 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and a maximum of five years for child endangering. No sentencing date was set.

At the prosecutor's request, Henry County Common Pleas Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld immediately revoked Schwenkmeyer's bond and ordered a pre-sentence investigation. A deputy allowed her to embrace her husband before taking her to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker.

Henry County Prosecutor John Hanna said afterward that he was "very satisfied" with the verdicts.

"I felt that the jury listened to all the evidence and came to the correct conclusion," he said.

Mr. Hanna had told the jury at the beginning of the week-long trial that he didn't know how Kamryn received the fatal dose of drugs - whether she found them and put them in her mouth or whether she was given the drugs - but he said that didn't matter. Schwenkmeyer was not charged with murder, he said, but with failing to fulfill a parent's duty of care and protection for her daughter. He said that failure led to the child's death.

Schwenkmeyer did not take the witness stand, but jurors heard her tell a detective with the Henry County Sheriff's Office in a tape-recorded interview from November, 2007, that she regularly abused both Xanax and Oxycontin, prescription drugs she said were supplied to her by David Knepley, a man with whom she was living in Napoleon at the time of Kamryn's death.

Mr. Knepley, 50, faces trial Oct. 18 on the same charges.

During her trial, defense attorney Dave Klucas attempted to place the blame for Kamryn's death on Mr. Knepley, telling jurors in his closing arguments that Mr. Knepley had dumped "a bunch of oxycodone in Kamryn's food" while Schwenkmeyer was asleep.

Mr. Hanna countered that there was no evidence to support that theory.

"The drugs got into her system on the defendant's watch," Mr. Hanna told the jury. "The drugs killed her, and the defendant is guilty on both counts."

After the guilty verdicts were announced, Mr. Hanna declined to comment on how his statements about Schwenkmeyer's culpability would impact Mr. Knepley's prosecution, other than to say his trial "would go forward as scheduled."

Mr. Klucas had no comment on the verdict but said Schwenkmeyer would appeal.

Both Schwenkmeyer's and Mr. Knepley's trials had been delayed several times since the pair were indicted in 2008.

In January, their trials were again postponed after The Blade filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to overturn a gag order imposed by Judge Muehlfeld that barred the media from reporting on Schwenkmeyer's trial until a jury was seated for Mr. Knepley's trial.

While the judge claimed the gag order was the only way to ensure the court could seat a jury and ensure both defendants a fair trial, the high court sided with the newspaper, saying the order was unconstitutional and the judge must give equal weight to a defendant's right to a fair trial and the media's right to free speech and press.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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