A Palmerton couple pleaded guilty in Carbon County court on Tuesday, admitting their negligence caused the death of their 11-month old girl.
Kimberly Ann Taschler, 30, and Jacob Adam Taschler, 36, both of 803 Edgemont Ave., entered pleas before Judge Joseph J. Matika.
Kimberly Taschler pleaded to one count each of voluntary manslaughter, a felony two, and endangering the welfare of a child, a felony three. Her husband pleaded to one count of endangering the welfare of a child, felony three.
State police at Lehighton charged them in the death of Kayla Marie Taschler, whose lifeless body was carried into the emergency room of the Palmerton hospital on Jan. 20, 2010, by Kimberly Taschler.
In a plea agreement with the district attorney's office charges of recklessly endangering another person and involuntary manslaughter were dropped.
The plea agreement calls for Jacob Taschler to be sentenced to a county prison term. The agreement announced in court by Assistant District Attorney William E. McDonald, who is prosecuting the case, does not mention where the sentenced imposed on Kimberly Taschler be served.
The plea agreement also carries the condition that if either defendant decides to withdraw their plea, the plea agreement for the other defendant will be withdrawn by the DA.
During the course of the plea hearing Kimberly Taschler cried and had a hard time answering the questions of Matika concerning her plea.
Also, during the proceeding public defender Attorney George Dydynsky disputed some of the facts that were read into the record by McDonald. In one section McDonald said the negligence of care given to the child by her parents began in October 2009 and continued until her death and the allegation that the child was strapped in a car seat and placed in a bedroom in the home for 16 hours without receiving any food or care while the couple smoked marijuana. Dydynsky claimed the period was just five days prior to the child's death and the 16 hour time frame for being in the child safety seat was also disputed.
However, McDonald said the lack of care was over a long period of time and that the facts as he read them would stand with the only variation is that no specific time span would be mentioned.
State police report
At the time fo their arrest Trooper Patrick Finn filed the following affidavit of probable cause:
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, the lifeless body of the victim was carried into the Emergency Room of the Palmerton Hospital by Kimberly Taschler, according to the affidavit.
According to Dr. Walter Bell, the victim was clearly dead, which included being cold to the touch and being in rigor mortis, the affidavit stated. Additionally, the victim had extensive red markings on her back and buttocks. Dr. Bell pronounced the victim dead at 12:54 p.m.
State Police were contacted and initiated an investigation at that time. Through the course of the investigation, the following has been documented through interviews, search warrants, and forensic examinations:
The victim had never been seen by a doctor until almost eight months old. This included having never received shots/immunizations.
During the first visit in October of 2009, the victim weighed over 16 pounds. A follow-up visit took place in November of 2009, at which point the victim was found to have lost five ounces, which prompted concern from the doctor.
As a result, a follow-up visit was scheduled for December 2009. Kimberly and Jacob Taschler failed to take the victim to a doctor again.
On the night prior to the victim's death, Kimberly Taschler strapped the victim into a car seat and left her on the floor of an upstairs bedroom. The victim was left unattended for at least 16 hours, without Kimberly or Jacob Taschler checking on the welfare of the victim or providing food or fluids. During this time period, Kimberly and Jacob Taschler smoked marijuana.
An autopsy was conducted by Dr. Sara Funke, forensic pathologist. At the time of the autopsy, the victim was found to weigh just over 13 pounds.
The victim displayed evidence of wasting, with extensive loss of weight and muscle mass, and also exhibited severe signs of dehydration.
Internal examination, toxicological analysis, and radiology found that there was no medical reason for the victim to have suffered weight loss and dehydration.
Instead, the factors were external in that the child was not properly provided fluids and nutrition, which resulted in her death.
The markings on the victim's back were found to be eroded skin that was the result of the victim having prolonged exposure to moisture and being in contact with bodily wastes.
Matika deferred sentencing in the matter and ordered the adult probation office to prepare a presentence investigation.
Jacob Taschler is represented by court-appointed defense counsel attorney Stephen Vlossak Sr.