Mom found guilty in daughter’s death

Friday, April 27, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:50 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

After five and a half hours of deliberation, a jury on Thursday night found Nicole West, 25, guilty on charges of both second-degree involuntary manslaughter and first-degree child endangerment. She was sentenced to three months for each count following the verdict.

She was found not guilty of possession of a controlled substance.

West will serve her sentence in the Boone County Jail. The judge did not set a date for when the sentence would begin.

The jury, composed of eight men and four women, delivered its verdict to Judge Gene Hamilton at 7 p.m. in Division I of the 13th Circuit Court. The jury had requested information from the judge five times during deliberation, including a request to see the blanket and pillow with which 6-month-old Deja West was laid to sleep the night she died.

In December 2005, according to testimony presented during the trial, West laid her daughter, Deja, face down on the pillow, then covered her body with the blanket in a bedroom of West’s boyfriend’s apartment. Two hours later, West discovered Deja unresponsive.

The prosecution argued that West covered her infant so that she could smoke marijuana and watch TV, while the defense argued that the death was caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS.

The defense rested its case after hearing testimony from Thomas Young, a former medical examiner for Jackson County, on Thursday afternoon.

Young testified that conclusions from his own investigation of the incident were not consistent with those of Eddie Adelstein, chief medical examiner for Boone County, who conducted Deja’s autopsy.

The cause of Deja’s death was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Young said.

He criticized the investigation led by Adelstein when asked by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Hicks whether he felt Adelstein’s investigation was sloppy.

“It would be sloppy if there was an investigation, but there wasn’t one,” Young said.

He went on to say that if he had been responsible for the investigation, he would have conducted a doll re-enactment of what happened the night of the incident, a scene investigation and direct questioning of the eye witness.

Lab and autopsy findings by Adelstein showed no indication that Deja died from suffocation, nor did they indicate that the manner of death was a homicide, Young said.

In closing arguments, Hicks argued that Deja’s death resulted not from SIDS, but from West’s failure to be aware of the risks involved in leaving her daughter unattended under a blanket.

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