The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 14, 2013

Judge orders trial for infant’s mother; woman faces manslaughter charge

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A judge has ruled that an Arma woman should be tried on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, and not murder, in the death of her 4-month-old baby.

District Judge A.J. Wachter ordered Heather L. Buckalew, 25, bound over for trial on the manslaughter charge at the conclusion of a hearing this week in Crawford County District Court in Pittsburg.

The state had charged Buckalew with second-degree murder, alleging that her recklessness caused the death of her infant son, Memphis Cash Harvey, on Aug. 31 of last year. The baby died while asleep with his mother on a couch in their home.

Testimony was presented at a preliminary hearing May 21 that Buckalew had been drinking beer with her boyfriend and father of the baby, Donald Harvey, before falling to sleep on the couch about 1 a.m.

The father got up to go to work about five hours later and found the infant face down on a pillow between the back of the couch and his sleeping mother. The baby was no longer breathing and could not be resuscitated.

The death was treated as accidental until a final autopsy report was issued Jan. 25. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy determined that, while he could not rule out sudden infant death syndrome, the more probable cause of the infant’s death was asphyxia by overlay. In other words, the mother smothered the child while both were sleeping.

Defense attorney John Gutierrez argued at the May hearing and in a written motion filed with the court that his client was overcharged. The state was basing its claim of recklessness on Buckalew’s purported intoxication alone, which was insufficient to support a charge of unintentional murder, he argued. The defense attorney maintained that the state also had to show a conscious disregard for the safety of the child on the part of his client.

The judge had delayed making a decision in the case at the conclusion of testimony May 21 in order to allow the state and defense time to present more written or oral arguments on the issue.

In his order this week, the judge noted that under Kansas law both unintentional murder, or “depraved heart murder,” and involuntary manslaughter involve recklessness. While both require a showing of “a realization of the imminence of danger and a conscious disregard of that danger,” depraved heart murder also requires the element of “extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to the state’s supreme court.

In dismissing the murder charge, Wachter wrote that “no evidence is presented sufficient for this court to find that defendant acted with extreme indifference to the value of human life” beyond the indifference present in all reckless killings. But the judge found that there had been sufficient evidence presented by Reina Probert, the deputy county attorney prosecuting the case, to believe that the crime of involuntary manslaughter was committed by the defendant.

The judge has set Buckalew’s arraignment in a trial division of the court for July 29.

 

Mother’s intoxication

A police officer testified in May that Heather Buckalew had been drinking enough beer to make her speech slurred and her walk unsteady the night her baby died. She later admitted to an investigator that she’d had “quite a few beers,” according to court records.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Last two safe room projects up for Joplin School Board approval

    The Joplin Board of Education during its meeting tonight will consider more than $2.4 million in bid packages for safe rooms at Columbia and West Central elementary schools.

    April 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Mosaic pieces together purpose

    Today I want to tell you about a man named John — a man I never knew existed until last week. And yet he’s making a difference in my community. He is an individual served by Mosaic of Southeast Kansas, which also, I learned, is making a difference.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Carthage Historic Preservation to re-create trolley era

    Recapturing history is difficult, but recapturing history without a building, an artifact or a singular focal point is even harder. To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, Carthage Historic Preservation wants to recapture an era and an experience that have been gone from the city for almost 80 years: the era of the trolley (or tram) cars that provided public transportation.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Candidates for associate judge address GOP group

    The response was all but unanimous among four candidates seeking two Jasper County associate circuit judge positions. Asked to cite the biggest obstacle to justice in Jasper County, three of the four said the most prevalent challenge is getting the needed time on a busy court docket.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Money to area lawmakers slows down but doesn’t stop

    With the Legislature back in session, the flow of campaign cash to local candidates has slowed. But in this election year, the money did not completely stop. All members of the local delegation to the Missouri General Assembly are on the ballot this year, but only two lawmakers are facing opposition.

    April 20, 2014

  • Joplin City Council to hear baseball plan details

    Proposed redevelopment plans for Joe Becker Stadium will be discussed with the Joplin City Council in a work session at the end of its regular meeting tonight. The WLD Suarez partnership has obtained a franchise of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball that succeeds the El Paso (Texas) Diablos.

    April 20, 2014

  • 041814 EPA projects5_72.jpg Contaminated mine tailings could be used on west bypass

    About 500 acres of former mining land at Wildwood Ranch have been reclaimed by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than 1 million cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings in the form of chat and waste rock have been consolidated in a surface repository that someday could be part of the roadbed for a limited-access highway that transportation planners hope to build on the west side of Joplin.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0420earthday.jpg Prairie State Park kicks off Earth Day events

    Prairie State Park began celebrating Earth Day early with an event Saturday that provided a chance for people of all ages to learn more about how they can protect the environment.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, following Russia's buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine. Do you think we should deploy these troops?

Yes
No
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter