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Marshall pleads no contest in 2011 death of 7-month-old boy

Apr 2, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

The Riverton man had been supervising the baby at the time of the infant's death.

After spending 20 months in jail awaiting trial for the 2011 death of a 7-month-old boy, Jonathan David Marshall pleaded no contest to the crime Monday in exchange for 10 years of supervised probation.

"This case has had a long history," Lander 9th Judicial District Court Judge Norman E. Young said at the start of the change of plea hearing.

The Riverton man's trial was scheduled to begin April 29 in connection with the July 28, 2011, death of infant Eli C'Bearing of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Marshall, who was 22 at the time, had been supervising the baby at the Riverton home of Patricia Davis, the defendant's mother who was acting as the baby's foster parent.

At about 10:45 p.m. July 26, 2011, medical personnel received a report that the baby was not breathing at the residence in the 800 block of North 12th Street East, according to charging documents.

Subsequent investigation at Denver Children's Hospital revealed the infant had a skull fracture that extended from the temple area to the rear of the head, a fractured rib, bruising and other injuries, according to court documents.

Police arrested Marshall on Aug. 4, 2011, for several charges, including first-degree murder, which can carry a life sentence. He also faced felony charges of second-degree murder and child abuse and a single misdemeanor charge of use of marijuana.

Marshall has remained in custody of the Fremont County Detention Center on a $250,000 bond since his arrest.

On Monday, Marshall pleaded no contest to amended information charging him with a single count of manslaughter. The felony, which carries up to 20 years behind bars, alleges Marshall "involuntarily but recklessly killed a human being."

Marshall's no contest plea was part of an agreement filed Monday that stipulates he receive 10 to 18 years in custody of the Department of Corrections. The sentence, however, would be suspended in exchange for 10 years of probation.

Per the plea agreement, Marshall would be sentenced after July 27 and receive credit for time served. Fines also would be at the discretion of the court, and restitution could apply to the original charges.

Young ordered a presentencing investigation on Marshall before accepting the agreement. If the judge rejects the deal, Marshall will have the right to withdraw his no contest plea and proceed to trial.

Young told Marshall that because he pleaded no contest, Marshall was not required to provide a factual basis for his plea. Instead, the court accepted the affidavit provided in the charging documents as being true.

Young continued Marshall's bond until sentencing. Before the hearing ended, defense attorney Thomas Fleener of Laramie asked that his client be allowed to have contact with his sister and mother. A no-contact order had been in place because Marshall's family members were potential witnesses. Young agreed to lift the order.

Marshall's case has encountered multiple delays because of a switch in defense attorneys and repeated requests for new trial dates. Court documents showed that Marshall's previously postponed trial dates in 2012 had been set for Jan. 17, March 19 and Sept. 24. Fleener said he requested the latest continuance because of expert witnesses' schedules.

Expert witness testimony is crucial for trial because prosecution last year could not fully explain what happened to cause the infant's death.

At a court hearing in March 2012, deputy county attorney Patrick LeBrun said he could not tell the court what the child's head hit but that Marshall was the only one around when the infant suffered a fatal blunt-force trauma head injury.

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