COEUR d'ALENE - The Post Falls foster parents accused of abusing two children in their care, including one who died, will not be tried after a plea agreement was reached Wednesday.
In 1st District Court in Kootenai County, Jeremy M. Clark, 37, and Amber M. Clark, 30, saw the charges against them dismissed, including two counts each of felony injury to a child, and one count each of concealment of evidence of child abuse, also a felony.
A sentencing enhancement also was dismissed. It was tied to one of the counts of felony injury to a child, which could have increased the sentence range on that count from up to 10 years in prison to up to 30 years, if they had been found guilty at trial.
As part of an Alford plea, the Clarks both agreed to be sentenced for perjury for statements they made at prior hearings. They each face up to 14 years in prison for the perjury charge.
The Clarks were accused of inflicting ice or snow baths on one foster child as a form of discipline, and injuring his head. He was 4 or 5 years old at the time, in late 2007 and early 2008.
They also were accused of beating 2-year-old foster child Karina J. Moore into a coma and failing to get her medical care. She died in January 2009, and a medical examiner ruled the case a homicide, citing "blunt-force head injuries."
Attorney Sean Walsh, who represented Jeremy Clark, said Wednesday, "This agreement is essentially a vindication of what we have said from the very beginning of this case: Jeremy Clark didn't abuse any of the foster children who were in his care. This case involved a terrible accident - nothing more and nothing less."
Walsh said he had planned to call as witnesses at trial the doctors who treated Karina Moore during her coma in January 2009.
"The defense expected the attending physicians to testify that the injuries observed in the dying child were consistent with the Clarks' report of an accidental fall down the stairs," Walsh said.
He said two other defense medical doctors were expected to testify that the injuries suffered by Karina Moore were consistent with an accidental fall down stairs.
A bio-mechanical expert for the defense was expected to say at trial that a fall down stairs could produce sufficient physical force to cause fatal injuries, Walsh said.
Prosecutors don't believe a fall in the Clarks' home led to the head injury that caused Karina Moore's death.
In November 2011, the Clarks were indicted by a grand jury in Kootenai County. They have not been in jail as the case has made its way through the system.
Karina Moore's mother, Samantha Richardson, said Wednesday, "I don't think it's fair."
She said she was frustrated that she has waited all this time "just to be led up to this" plea agreement.
She added, "They're getting off too easily."
At the upcoming sentencing hearing, scheduled for Nov. 14, Judge Steve Verby will hear evidence from both prosecutors and defense attorneys about how Karina Moore's injuries were sustained.
The Clarks were the only adults in their Post Falls home at the time of Karina Moore's injuries. The Clarks have six kids of their own.
Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he shares Richardson's frustration.
"For those who might question the wisdom of our judgment in this case, I hope that the information that is presented for purposes of sentencing will shed some light on the decision," McHugh said.
In every case his office prosecutes, he said, the strengths and weaknesses are evaluated throughout the process.
"We have demonstrated a willingness to try hard cases," McHugh said.
Walsh said the perjury charges the Clarks will be sentenced on relate to testimony they gave in 2009 during a child protection hearing. Walsh said the state was attempting to place the Clarks' children into foster care after Karina Moore's death.
"The Alford plea is simply a plea-bargaining tool and doesn't require an admission of any wrongdoing," Walsh said.
In addition to calling doctors as witnesses, Walsh planned to call a number of character witnesses at trial.
"The people who actually saw Jeremy and Amber interact with their foster kids knew that they were not capable of committing the charged acts of child abuse," Walsh said.
The trial was to start Sept. 4, and was scheduled to last six weeks.