- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - Two Kalispell women who pleaded guilty to locking children in a dark basement without food and only a bucket for a toilet were sentenced Friday to serve time in prison despite a plea agreement that recommended deferred sentences.

“I think these children were both abused and neglected by the defendants,” District Judge Robert Allison said as he issued the sentences. “I find it somewhat ironic that the parties are asking for probation for having imprisoned the children.”

Alison sentenced Amy Lynn Newman, who lost custody of her five adopted children, to eight years in the Montana Women’s Prison with three years suspended. He sentenced Crystal Mears, who was living with Newman, to six years in prison with three years suspended.

Both women pleaded guilty to two counts of felony criminal endangerment for locking two boys in the basement, at times without mattresses. They said they did it for the safety of the rest of the family because one boy tried to set fire to the house and another tried to choke his sister by shoving cat litter down her throat.

During the sentencing hearing, which began on Nov. 10, the children testified they were beaten and ate only peanut butter sandwiches or pasta with butter while other family members, including Mears’ two children, ate regular meals. A 16-year-old girl testified she taught her four younger siblings how to pick locks on cupboards so they could steal food.

After hearing from the children, Allison said he wanted to look at the results of a family neglect investigation that led to Newman, 46, losing custody of the children.

Defense attorney Shawn Hinchey said Friday that Newman’s actions were done as “tough love and a form of discipline.” He said they were not the right choices, but they were not made with “an evil purpose.”

Newman broke down in tears while asking the judge to consider her lack of a criminal history.

“I don’t want to go to jail,” she said. “I didn’t mean to hurt my children. I only wanted to protect them. I feel that I am punished every day because I don’t have them anymore.”

Mears, 37, testified that she never locked the children in the basement and that she had memories of happy times with them.

Prosecutor Allison Howard said it was “very suspicious” to her “that all of these problems they talked about the children having don’t exist anymore in the children’s lives.”

Howard and the defense attorneys all recommended a three-year deferred sentence for each count, as stated in the plea agreement. Hinchey along with Mears’ attorney, Tim Wenz, urged the judge to sentence the women only for the crimes to which they pleaded guilty.

Allison said he spent hours reviewing the evidence and the law before deciding to sentence the women to prison. He said the children reported their lives got worse after Mears moved in. He noted the court file indicated that after the children were removed from Newman’s custody, two of them ate so voraciously that they sometimes vomited.

“The physical conditions that these children were subjected to is comparable to a prison cell, but even a prison cell is better than what these kids had,” he said. “At least a cell has a light and a toilet.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide