Thursday, November 16th, 2006
Mom to go to prison for injuring girl
By Margie Wuebker
A Celina woman tearfully told Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham on Wednesday morning that she deserved years in prison for causing permanent injuries to her infant daughter.
Jaclyn Knutzen, 24, 321 Brandon Ave., rested her head against folded hands minutes later as Ingraham imposed a seven-year sentence - one year less than the maximum - on a single count of endangering children.
During lengthy negotiations, the state dismissed one count of felonious assault, also a second-degree felony, in exchange for a guilty plea.
Knutzen admitted shaking her daughter nearly a year ago. The infant, who was 3 months old at the time, suffered permanent physical and mental injuries. She and her 3-year-old sister remain in foster care.
"I know my daughter will be disabled for the rest of her life," the defendant said prior to sentencing. "There is no cure and I will live with that fact the rest of my life. I know I deserve years of prison, but the worst punishment is knowing she will never walk, talk or do anything."
Struggling to regain composure, she added "I know my children will look at me one day and not hate me."
Knutzen's mother, Deb Brenneman, asked Ingraham to consider community control sanctions.
"Jaclyn's stayed in a stressful and abusive relationship," Brenneman said. "She put her dream of a happy little family ahead of everything. Now that dream has turned into a nightmare."
She asked that her daughter not be sent to prison, but instead stay home and face her actions.
"As a mother, I feel it is much more appropriate that she deal with what she did. She should be there every day through doctor's visits and therapy seeing the pain and the tears," she said.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox did not mince words, labeling the case one of the worst, if not the worst felonious assault case he has brought before the court.
"Jasmine's life will never be the same," he added. "She will never know there are people who love and care for her. The permanent damage was caused by a failure to the duty of providing care, protection and support."
Ingraham paused briefly before imposing sentence and then told the defendant, "This is a violation of parental duty. There is nothing the court or anyone can do to minimize the harm to this child."
Officials at Children's Medical Center in Dayton contacted Celina Police during the early morning hours of Sept. 3, 2005, to report the admission of an infant with internal injuries consistent with "shaken baby" syndrome.
Detective Ron Waltmire and an investigator from Mercer County Child and Family Services interviewed Knutzen regarding what had happened at Williamsburg Square Apartments, her home at the time.
Knutzen reportedly told them she did not recall the specifics of how her daughter had been injured, noting thumb prints left on the skin may have come while placing her in or removing her from a crib. She also said she might have allowed the child's head to come into contact with a wall while being carried.
During a subsequent interview, Knutzen offered a different recollection as to the number of times she had gotten up with the child and noted the injuries could have occurred while rocking her.
Knutzen later admitted harboring anger toward the baby's father for not supporting her and helping care for their two children. She also suspected him of being unfaithful.
The woman explained she had worked at a fast food restaurant until 1 a.m. that day and was awakened by the baby. After telling her to be quiet and trying unsuccessfully to rouse the father, she admitted shaking the crying infant and placing her in a crib. She never intended to inflict harm or realized that she had and sought medical help when efforts to rouse the child failed.
The case was presented to a Mercer County grand jury Dec. 15 resulting in the two-count indictment.