Closing arguments in baby death trial

 

SUNBURY – A decision will be announced Tuesday for the Selinsgrove grandmother accused in the death of her 1-year-old granddaughter.  65-year-old Bertha Dreese is charged with involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child.

 Dreese was in the Sunbury home of her daughter, 30-year-old Heidi Yocum of Lewisburg, in October 2010 when 1-year-old Aneela Loner was found dead in her crib.  An autopsy showed the child had overheated and died of hyperthermia.  Now, what President Judge Robert Sacavage has to decide is whether or not Dreese should be charged with negligence in the baby’s death.

Friday was the second day of the bench trial in Northumberland County Court.  Dreese took the stand and became visibly upset a number of time when answering questions.  Dreese says she went to Yocum’s home in the afternoon October 15.  Yocum’s boyfriend and Aneela’s father, Lopaka Loner was also at the home.  Dreese says Loner put the child down for a nap around 12:30p.m.  Loner then left the home.

Dreese says it was time that couple’s oldest daughter was getting off the bus from school and since neither Loner nor Yocum were home, she was going to get their other daughter.  She says she left Aneela Loner in her crib and ran, both to the bus stop and back to the home.  Dreese testifies that she ran because she did not feel comfortable leaving the baby alone.  However, when she arrived back to the home, she did not check on Aneela, but instead called from the hallway to the 1-year-old.

Not hearing any response, Dreese assumed the child was still sleeping.  According to Dreese, Yocum and Lopaka arrived to the house later that evening.  No one checked on the child for the remainder of the evening.  It was just before 8:00a.m. the next morning that Dreese went into the Aneela’s room and found her dead.

The defense claims that, though this is a tragic incident, Dreese did not go to the home to cause harm and was not grossly negligent in her actions.  Attorney James Best said, Dreese had a moral responsibility, it was a bad idea not to check on the child and it is guilt she will always have to live with.  But, Best said, Dreese was not responsible for the well-being of the child and should not be charged.

 

The Commonwealth claims Dreese was negligent and reckless because she was one of three adults in the home that did not check on the baby for over 19 hours. Attorney Ann Targonski said that failure to act is sometimes worse than acting and in this case, it is clear that Dreese showed recklessness and gross negligence.  Throughout the Commonwealth’s case, Targonski pointed out several inconsistencies in Dreese’s story from the time of the incident through the trial.

 

Aneela Loner’s parents have been charged in the incident.  Loner serving up to two years in prison and Yocum is serving a 12-60 year state prison term. President Judge Robert Sacavage will rule on Dreese’s case Tuesday. (Sara Bartlett)

 

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