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Mother charged with death of 1-year-old son will head to trial

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 8:49 AM CDT
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - A 22-year-old woman charged with the death of her 16-month-old son will head to trial.

Amber Boyd appeared in Lincoln County Circuit Court Friday for a preliminary hearing. The boy’s father, Cody Robertson is also charged with neglecting a child resulting in death. The boy died Nov. 12, 2020.

The preliminary hearing focused heavily on the child’s official cause of death.

“The cause of death was the totality of the circumstances attributed from the drug exposure, the malnutrition, the physical abuse, and his environment,” said Sgt. investigator Randy Ruleau.

The autopsy report stated the death was caused by four things: acute bronchiolitis and bronchopneumonia, history of domestic abuse, history of prior abuse and ingested methamphetamine due to his environment. The boy had no broken bones or fractures. Sgt. Ruleau also testified the boy’s organs were functioning normally.

Sgt. Ruleau testified that the boy was lethargic the days before his death.

According to court documents, Boyd called 911 and said her child wasn’t breathing. When paramedics arrived they noted bruising on the child and make-up covering scabs and lesions on the boy’s body. The autopsy findings noted 70-80 lesions on the boy’s body. Toxicology showed methamphetamine was in the boy’s system.

Boyd and Roberstson’s two other children also tested positive for methamphetamine. During the preliminary hearing, it was explained that social services had been at the couple’s home the day before the boy died.

Boyd’s attorney Michael Edward Covey asked Sgt. Ruleau if he boy died of an overdose. Sgt. Ruleau said no.

Sgt. Ruleau was also asked about the make-up covering the boy’s body.

“The substance would have been concealing the bruises the scabs the marks scrapes the gouges on [the boy’s] body, specifically his neck and head area.”

Covey said the evidence doesn’t show his client is at fault for her son’s death.

“We don’t really know why [the boy] died suddenly. It certainly isn’t apparent from the exhibits, as I’ve seen them today. And to state that Amber is criminally liable for neglecting her child to the cause where the child dies, where we don’t know the cause of death, I think, is putting the cart before the horse,” Covey said. “I also look at the case where the one thing that we absolutely know is that when there was an urgent medical crisis, Amber did the one thing that she could do, was she called 911. And then she stood out of the way while the paramedics came to try to treat her child. And so for that reason, I would object to binding over.”

During his rebuttal, Lincoln County District Attorney Galen Bayne-Allison said this is a negligence case.

“It’s alleged that Ms. Boyd was criminally negligent in the care of this child for a number of reasons other than poverty. Including failure to provide necessary care, which I would submit to the court includes protection from others. Failure to provide sufficient food. The court has the exhibits which show that the child was extremely lightweight for his age. And protection from exposure to drug abuse, whether that’s Ms. Boyd’s drug abuse, Mr. Robertson’s drug abuse, or the drug abuse of others, and the state is not required to allege that any one of those specific failings is what caused the death of the child simply that her negligence, seriously endangered the health, physical, mental or emotional, the child. And the child suffered death as a consequence. So I think the court has to look at this and ask itself if this child had lived in a home where these factors-- the abuse, the bruising, the drug exposure, the lack of medical care for some six months were not present, would [the child] be dead? And I submit to the court that the answer is ‘no’. And because Ms. Boyd and Mr. Robertson were responsible for [the boy’s] care, they are responsible for his death.”

Judge Jay Tlusty ruled there was enough evidence for Amber Boyd to head to trial.

Boyd is scheduled to enter a plea to the charge on Oct. 5. Robertson was also scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Friday, however, he does not yet have an attorney. His next court appearance will be a clerical court appearance on Oct. 27. They both remain in custody in the Lincoln County Jail.

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