UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The man who insisted his nine-month-old son was missing, watched police conduct multiple, costly searches for the child and even criticized investigators for not looking hard enough for him today pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter in Oneida County Court.
Jevon Wameling entered the plea early Wednesday morning, after a late night of negotiations between his attorney and prosecutors. Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara knows that people will question why Wameling wasn't charged with murder. McNamara says that in order to prove a murder charge, you have to prove a defendant intended to kill someone.
"We have no evidence, there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he intentionally killed baby Levon so murder in the 2nd degree is gone. There's no way we could prove that, there was absolutely no evidence to support that was an intentional killing," says McNamara.
What prosecutors had were no eyewitnesses and Jevon Wameling's repeated assertion that his son had fallen off of a couch and struck his head. He acknowledged in court that the child had a severe head injury and that when he found the child unresponsive a few days later, instead of getting him help, he got rid of the child's body.
"He admitted that after he found the baby that he did not call 911, he did not call anybody to help him, any emergency medical personnel, and that he put baby Levon into a bag, a bag pack travel type of bag, put some rocks in the bag, took it to the Mohawk River, and dropped it in the river," says McNamara of Wameling's plea elocution in Oneida County Court Wednesday.
Prosecutors faced another nearly insurmountable challenge that would have made the case virtually impossible to prosecute. While state police were questioning Wameling about an unrelated burglary charge in September, he told them that he put the child in the Mohawk River. But he made the admission after asking for an attorney, when police continued questioning him. That means the admission and any information that grew out of it would not be admissible at trial.
"We could not use his admission to go to a grand jury, we could not use the fact of where we found the body from that information because it's the fruit of the poisonous tree, and more importantly, we can't use the autopsy results," says McNamara.
The D.A. says it came down to investigators making a crucial choice between to important goals and that he does not fault them for the choice they made.
"Because at that point they had to decide, evidence, or, and both of them are parents, or do we try to bring the baby home?...."We wouldn't be sitting here today had they not done what they did. He might never have told us where the body was and honestly we might all still be out searching dumps".
Wameling's attorney agrees: this was the most fair and accurate disposition for all sides.
"Because of Jevon Wameling's actions in disposing of the baby's body, the district attorney faced some challenges in establishing the cause and manner of Levon Wameling's death. Conversely, those same actions presented challenges in defending against any charges related to the death of Levon Wameling," says Defense Attorney Rebecca Wittman.
McNamara says the plea was for the only charge his office could have proved at trial: manslaughter in the second degree.
"That's reckless conduct. It's conduct that is very upsetting to a lot of us but the reality is, we have to stick to proving what we can prove. Not what we would like to prove or not what people suspect or what we think could have possibly happened. We could only prove those facts," says McNamara.
Jevon Wameling will be sentenced January 30th in Oneida County Court. His shorter sentences of five years for burglary and 2-4 years for conspiracy will be served concurrently with the manslaughter charge, which means a total of seven and a half to 15 years in prison.
The child's mother, Amy Warney, was in court this morning and aware of the plea agreement.