Merrill mother pleads guilty in fatal child neglect case

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 1:13 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 21, 2022 at 10:06 AM CDT
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - A 23-year-old woman charged with the death of her 16-month-old son pleaded guilty to her most serious count on Monday. As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Amber Boyd’s six other charges and a separate misdemeanor case were dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to neglecting a child resulting in death.

The boy died Nov. 12, 2020. The boy’s father, Cody Robertson is also charged with neglecting a child resulting in death.

Investigators said there were many factors in the boy’s death.

At a preliminary hearing in September 2021, Sgt. investigator Randy Ruleau said “The cause of death was the totality of the circumstances attributed from the drug exposure, the malnutrition, the physical abuse, and his environment.”

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 Robertson’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.

Investigators said when medical crews responded after Boyd’s 911 call they found make-up on the child reportedly concealing scabs and scrapes.

At the preliminary hearing, 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.”

The dismissed counts will still be considered during Boyd’s upcoming sentencing hearing.

Cody Robertson is scheduled to learn April 13 if his case will head to trial.

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