Sitter faces manslaughter charge - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Sitter faces manslaughter charge

Prosecutors sought murder charge in death of 3-year-old

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Posted: Thursday, December 2, 2010 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - A Post Falls baby sitter will face involuntary manslaughter charges in 1st District Court - not first-degree murder - for the death of a 3-year-old boy in her care in October.

Magistrate Judge Clark A. Peterson decided on the lesser charge on Wednesday for 26-year-old Amanda L. Skogen following a preliminary hearing in the case.

Skogen is accused of killing Cohen Johnson.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Skogen got angry and pushed Cohen after he wet himself and it got on her while the two were on a couch at her house, in the 500 block of North Elm Road. The boy fell backward and hit his head, the prosecutor said.

That incident occurred on Oct. 4 and Cohen died days later at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane after being taken off life support once his parents were told by doctors that the boy was brain dead.

A Spokane County medical examiner who performed the boy's autopsy testified that he sustained a fractured skull that

branched out in three directions on the back of his skull. He also suffered brain hemorrhaging and massive brain swelling, which killed the brain tissue.

Peterson said prosecutors and the defense team don't really differ on the primary facts in the case.

He repeated a widely reported comment Skogen made to Post Falls police, saying, "'I hurt a poor little defenseless boy ... And it was all my fault.'"

Peterson said he believes she was responsible for the death, but didn't believe the charge prosecutors were seeking to have bound over to District Court fit the crime.

Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, Peterson found that one push of the boy out of anger or frustration didn't add up to murder, particularly since he didn't believe Skogen would have anticipated the boy's death to be the end result of her action.

Still, he said, "There's a 3-year-old boy who should not be dead."

The judge said Skogen likely would do anything for "a do-over on Oct. 4."

Speaking directly to Cohen's mother, Jennifer A. Gamble, Peterson said, "Mom, I know this has been an incredibly long and difficult day for you. I'm sorry for your loss."

The boy's father, Jeremy Johnson, knows Skogen's husband, Matt, from high school, which led to the baby sitting job for Amanda Skogen.

The courtroom at the Kootenai County jail was packed with friends and family members for both sides. Gamble gave emotional testimony to start the hearing, and Skogen cried during breaks in testimony while she talked with those who attended to support her, including Matt Skogen, who testified.

McHugh needed to prove that there was an aggravated battery that led to the death for the first-degree murder charge to continue on at the next level.

"How much passion can (the boy wetting himself) really arouse," McHugh told the court. "We would argue there was more than just passion - there was a decision."

Defense attorneys John Adams and Anne Taylor said Skogen's action was more in line with a less serious misdemeanor battery.

They argued that the expected natural consequence of a single push wouldn't be death.

The judge found the argument persuasive, saying it was a misdemeanor battery with "an incredibly grievous result," but not enough to add up to murder.

Idaho statutes say punishment for individuals convicted of involuntary manslaughter can't exceed 10 years in custody.

The case will now be before 1st District Judge Fred Gibler.

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  • Triumph posted at 9:28 am on Fri, Dec 3, 2010.

    Triumph Posts: 588

    Thats true taxpayer, but keep in mind that the babysitter will have to live with the fact that a child is dead because of her actions forever too. That's got to hurt.

  • taxpayer posted at 8:02 am on Fri, Dec 3, 2010.

    taxpayer Posts: 343

    the punishment will not fit the cime in this case, 1st degree murder is pre-meditated and planned out, not the case here, but she should get next best thing to1st degree murder, it was an intentional push, not involuntary

    parents lost a child and will have to live with that forever

  • Triumph posted at 4:54 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    Triumph Posts: 588

    Thats right Niles, I agree. The death of this young boy was certianly un-intentional, however it was a huge and tragic mistake made by the sitter. It was not murder!! But it was a horrible event. I feel terrible for both sides of this ordeal. Both families will feel pain for a long time to come.

  • DeNiles posted at 3:45 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Some here are obviously very deeply impacted by this horrific crime. It is a crime. There is no excuse for shoving a 3 year old. Still God forgives those who are dumb. The sitter did NOT intend to kill the child. Perhaps at one time it would have been preferred/acceptable to determine immediate guilt and deliver immediate punishment. Somehow heinous child slaying criminals like Duncan are allowed to live. Ultimately the justice meted to this criminal will weigh the facts about the people and the incident and history will delivered and it will be served. Do not ever forget Cohen. See his situation in the face of every sitter you ever hire. Do not let it happen ever again.

  • babybunny posted at 3:15 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    babybunny Posts: 9

    DeNiles, from what i've read Skogen DID initially lie about the whole situation and claimed the child just became limp and fell, and obviously she DID NOT get away with it. It was only after further investigation she finally admitted she pushed him out of anger. So that gives you an idea of the lack of remorse this woman has over her actions.

  • Linda C posted at 2:57 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    Linda C Posts: 30

    One more thought to XRGRSF . . . a win/win?? Have you been lobotomized? The killer is defended against a serious charge and a small child is dead and you use that phrase. Barry McHugh is a decent, thoughtful professional and you call him predatory while claiming that a dead baby is a win/win - no wonder you don't use your real name.

  • Linda C posted at 2:51 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    Linda C Posts: 30

    "Hate mongers"? I'm not seeing hate here and seeking justice for a dead 3 year old is hardly hate mongering. If we do not deal seriously with people who kill children it will be open season for every hot tempered sadist in the country. Also Anyone . . . I read that the child had elevated THC but parents and sitter did not . . . would be interested in your source. Additionally, if the autopsy showed a prior fractured skull, how do you know the sitter was not responsible? Just curious . . . don't want to be labeled anything vitriolic just because I'm trying to figure this one out. You seem to hate the child paying the ultimate price . . . me too, so what do you suggest is the cure for children being left defenseless?

  • DeNiles posted at 2:25 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450


  • Anyone posted at 2:08 pm on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    Anyone Posts: 1556

    Because the media is always unbiased...and for the hate mongers are two facts about the case you might want to consider:

    1) the victim's immediate family was tested(including parents and all children) and were found to have elevated levels of THC.

    2) forensics have proven the victim's skull was fractured previously...and the sitter was NOT the cause.

    Of course, the truth will never come out...especially in the media.

    And, no, I'm not defending Skogan. I'm merely pointing out that you might want to hear ALL the facts before judgment...especially when there was previous brain damage! Gee, you think the previous injuries might have been a contributing factor?

    There's more than one guilty party here. And the child paid the ultimate price!

  • DeNiles posted at 10:18 am on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    A tragedy for everyone involved. It does clearly define the need to understand the temperament of the people you choose to care for your children. For what it is worth the sitter could have lied about this incident and probably would have succeeded. She told the truth and she is accepting the burdens of her actions. Keep in mind also that this same problem exists with eldercare. Providing personal care for anyone requires a degree of knowledge and patience about the nature of that service. Just anyone may not be sufficient or safe.

  • missmcj posted at 10:18 am on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    missmcj Posts: 7

    Well after reading the article, and the posted comments left on this blog, I can't help but wonder if Skogan is more sorry because she is facing punishment, or that she is truly sorry she reacted way to hastily in yes a typical babysitting situation.
    I think these days it is very important to think things through thoroughly, not react so quickly about innumerable situations that can detour out decisions, it's important to be patient in our dealings and think through what we do in our daily lives "Patience is a virtue".
    These are one of those situations, sadly no one wins because something that happened in a split second has changed the lives of a community, and 2 family's.......and this is something to remember, especially those who have children, care for children, and most of all babysit in future, this will never happen again,and this is all we can hope for. MCJ

  • toocute3366 posted at 9:51 am on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    toocute3366 Posts: 5

    This story makes me so mad. She should have never pused him,it seems like now she is getting away with it. The charge she should be recieveing should be manslaughter, as a parent the lesser charge she is recieveing now does not justify her action. Part of being a babysitter is dealing with those kinds of things, the fact that she did this to someone elses child, only makes me wonder what she would have done to her own children had they peed on her. Some people should just never be around kids if they cant keep their cool.

  • Linda C posted at 9:14 am on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    Linda C Posts: 30

    Every woman who has cared for small children has been pooped on, piddled on and thrown up on, yet they do not kill, not normally. This was a tragedy yes but it wasn't merely an 'event'. That poor child's head suffered such extreme injury I have to question 'involuntary' manslaughter. Murder was a bit strong for a charge but this was anything but involuntary. Does a childs' life mean so little? How do we stop the attacks on children if we sit back and accept a plea of "Oops" and just hope that everyone can get on with their lives? I'm just sorry that Cohen can't get on with his life while everyone else goes on their way.

  • XRGRSF posted at 7:06 am on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    XRGRSF Posts: 155

    A judge lending compassion, and reason to a tragic event, and a predatory prosecutor given one less life to destroy. A most unusual win / win situation.

  • opinionatedB posted at 5:37 am on Thu, Dec 2, 2010.

    opinionatedB Posts: 76

    Please, don't anyone get on here and type nasty things. This story makes me cry for everyone involved, I feel so sorry for Ms. Skogan and the parents of Cohen. Lets just pray for everyone involved and not be nasty. I am thinking of all of you and pray for peace in everyones life.

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