Mother pleads to starving son
JERSEY SHORE –The mother accused of starving her newborn son and denying him necessary medical care pleaded no contest Monday to endangering the welfare of a child.
Marissa Lynn Smith, 22, entered the plea in Lycoming County court and was sentenced to a county prison term of one year minus a day to two years minus day.
The infant’s father, Justin Ray Lawrence, 31, pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced April 23 to 9 months to two years minus a day.
Smith and Lawrence were living in Jersey Shore when the baby was born but moved to Lewistown a short time before their arrest in March.
Smith’s attorney, Aaron Biichle, said his client does not believe what she did rises to the level of criminal conduct but she agrees a jury likely would have found her guilty.
First Assistant District Attorney Martin Wade explained the respective plea agreements called for a county prison sentence because Lawrence and Smith both accepted responsibility when confronted.
Smith received a longer sentence because in 2013 in Clinton County she was adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile of aggravated assault in a case in which a 4-year-old suffered a fractured skull, Wade said.
Their son has been in the custody of county Children and Youth Services since Feb. 22 and is reported to be thriving.
Besides starving their son, Smith and Lawrence, who are not married, were accused of providing false information on how mch food they were giving him.
The charge against each parent stemmed from an opinion written by Diane Turner, a county family court master, who ordered the baby removed from the two.
She found food was withheld for a sufficient period of time causing the child to be underweight and not growing taller.
The circumference of his head had not grown within normal limits, too, she said.The child, born Dec. 21, was fed only approximately one-half of a sample can for formula over a period when he should have consumed two to three times that amount, Turner wrote.
By Feb. 1 he was a pound and a half underweight, the arrest affidavit stated.
Lawrence was accused of failing to take his son to Geisinger Medical Center near Danville as he’d promised a doctor who was concerned about the toddler’s weight.
He also was accused of lying to a caseworker en route to his home on Feb. 12 by saying his son was at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College for a second opinion.
The caseworker continued to the house and removed the baby.