By Leah Timmerman and Linhchi Nguyen
SACRAMENTO, CA – Defendants Jana Lee and Joshua Kennedy Tuesday here in Sacramento County Superior Court pleaded no contest to committing child abuse to their 16-month-old daughter and six-week-old infant son—who died after multiple rib fractures.
According to the factual basis, Lee called 911 on July 8, 2018 to report her six-week-old son was not breathing. After transferring the infant to the hospital, he was found completely immobile and declared dead.
The autopsy reported various injuries, including bruising to multiple areas of his body, scarring on his left clavicle, chronic ulcers in the mouth, raw and bleeding skin in various areas, and a subcutaneous hemorrhage on both sides of his scalp.
Deputy District Attorney TeriAnn Grimes stated the most shocking injuries were the 19 rib fractures at various stages of healing, with the earliest sustained during the first two weeks of the victim’s life.
According to the pathologist, these rib fractures can be caused when an adult squeezes an infant because squeezing is a very effective way of getting a crying baby to stop and can ultimately lead to asphyxia.
With nothing else to point at the cause of death, the forensic examiner concluded that it was undetermined, and stated “the autopsy showed multiple injuries that are not consistent with any reported history and not consistent with accidental trauma in a one-month-old; however, there were no specific internal injuries to account for death. In view of the rib fractures and lack of anatomical cause of death, asphyxia cannot be excluded. Therefore the cause and manner of death is best classified as undetermined.”
Since the cause of death was undetermined, the defendants are being charged with child abuse and not homicide.
Because of this incident, Lee and Kennedy lost custody of their 16-month-old child, who was placed in protective custody. During the child’s time there, the foster parents reported that the 16-month-old would cry when she placed weight on her leg or when anyone touched her leg.
It was determined that she had two fractures in her femur at different stages of healing, with the oldest dated to be two to three months old and the newest to be four to six weeks old. Both are within the time frame in which she was in the care of the defendants, and she did not receive medical attention.
Because of placement and type of injury, the doctor determined these were not accidental but rather the result of child abuse.
Both Lee and Kennedy were charged with four different counts of Penal Code section 273(a), also known as child endangerment, in which they willfully produced great bodily injury or death to their children.
The defendants were offered different pleas as part of a package deal. Kennedy pleaded no contest to causing great bodily injury and admitted to inflicting unjustifiable pain onto the six-week-old, which adds up to nine years in state prison. He will also pay a mandatory restitution fee between $300 and $10,000.
Lee does not have any personal infliction charges, but she pleaded no contest to two of the child abuse charges and will have to serve a total of five years and four months in state prison. She is also expected to pay a restitution fine between $300 and $10,000.
Despite the defendants agreeing to their pleas, Judge Geoffrey Goodman warned them that when the case gets sent to the probation officer, there is a possibility that their sentencing may be greater.
Linhchi Nguyen is a fourth year at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and English. She currently lives in Sacramento, California.
Leah Timmerman is a 4th Political Science and American Studies major at UC Davis. She is originally from Los Angeles, California.
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