Hermiston woman pleads guilty to killing child
By Paula Horton, Herald staff writer
HERMISTON — A 22-year-old Hermiston woman cried in a Umatilla County courtroom Tuesday as she apologized to her ex-boyfriend for killing their newborn daughter two years ago.
“I am extremely sorry for what I’ve done,” Michelle Leann Barry said after she pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. “I don’t expect you guys to forgive me because I don’t forgive myself.”
Jackelyn Dawn Beyers was just 33 days old on March 29, 2007, when Barry crushed up painkillers and antidepressants and put it in the infant’s bottle to make her sleep longer.
“This cocktail led to the death of this infant about five hours later,” said Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa.
Barry, charged with first-degree manslaughter in Umatilla County Circuit Court, accepted a last-minute deal to a reduced charge as her trial was set to start Tuesday morning.
First-degree manslaughter carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison under Oregon state law, while the mandatory sentence for second-degree manslaughter is six years and three months.
Barry was sentenced to seven years and six months after an extra 15 months was added to the sentence because the victim was vulnerable.
“You understand that the 90 months will in fact be 90 months with (the state Department of Corrections),” Judge Garry Alexander asked Barry. “There is no alternative incarceration or good-time credits.”
Jackelyn’s father, Chris Beyers, and her paternal grandparents supported the plea agreement.
“She has put my family through pain and torture for the last two years,” Beyers said outside the courthouse. “I’m glad it’s finally over.
“Nothing will bring my daughter back, but it’s over, at least,” he said.
It’s been just over two years since Beyers found his daughter face down and not breathing on the couch where Barry was sleeping. Jackelyn was taken to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, where the initial cause of death was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
A follow-up toxicology test, however, showed lethal amounts of Oxycontin and citalopram in the baby’s blood. Authorities said the amount of drugs found was enough to kill an adult.
Barry was then indicted by a Umatilla County grand jury on one count of first-degree manslaughter. She has been in the Umatilla County jail since her arrest Nov. 15, 2007.
Defense attorney Doug Fischer said the case was difficult as the defense tried to determine “the level of Ms. Barry’s criminal behavior.”
“There is certainly no winners in a case of this sort,” Fischer said. “I, as a parent, certainly feel for the family and the loss they’ve endured. … I hope everyone can find healing in this.”
Judge Alexander told Barry that her conduct may not have been intentional, but was “most assuredly reckless” and it is something that won’t ever go away.
“No one can describe the loss that I’m sure you’re feeling and I know the father of the infant is feeling,” Alexander said. “I certainly hope there can be some resolution in everyone’s mind.”
After Barry was sentenced, Beyers stood at the railing and watched as she was cuffed and led out of the courtroom. Beyers asked if he could talk to her briefly, but he was told he’d have to go to the jail if he wanted speak with her.
Beyers later said he had just one thing he wanted to ask. “Why?”
Beyers, 22, said he has no idea where Barry even got the prescription medications, adding that the only valid prescription that he knew she had was for Vicodin.
“I don’t think she planned to kill her, but at the same time it should be common sense not to give an infant prescription drugs,” Beyers said.
w Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org