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Man gets 25 years in Poplar Bluff child abuse case
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- After hearing emotional testimony from both of the families affected by the death of a 4-year-old Poplar Bluff girl Tuesday morning, a judge sentenced the man responsible for her death to 25 years in prison.
Having pleaded guilty as charged to the Class A felony of child abuse in January, Jeremy E. McIntosh appeared before Circuit Judge Benjamin Lewis for sentencing.
McIntosh, a resident of the 200 block of East Midland, was accused of the Feb. 17, 2011, death of Zoey Slagle, who died of blunt force trauma.
Lewis, who had ordered a sentencing assessment report be completed by Probation and Parole, asked the 28-yearold if there was anything "not true" contained in the report. "That I feel sorry; I told her (the probation officer) I'm sorry," McIntosh said. "I cry myself to sleep every night over there [in jail]. I'm sorry."
McIntosh's statement, Lewis said, was consistent with what was included in the SAR.
When Lewis asked Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Barbour for the state's recommendation as to the sentence, he said, the state recommended a cap of 25 years.
"Other than that, I'm leaving (the sentence) to your fine judgment," Barbour said.
McIntosh's attorney, Kyle Walsh, then presented evidence from two witnesses, including his client's sister, Christina Schwartz.
Growing up, Schwartz described her "little brother" as being happy.
"He never really got into any trouble," Schwartz said. "He was never violent, just an all around good person."
Schwartz said her brother was "a normal teen, smoking behind mom's back. ? In 29 years, I never saw him in a fight."
With his children, Schwartz described her brother as being a "very good father, loving, giving, (but) not a good disciplinarian for sure.
"His idea of punishment is time out."
According to Schwartz, McIntosh took an active role in raising his children, and also helped with cooking, cleaning and laundry.
"You still believe he could be a good father?" Walsh asked.
Schwartz answered yes.
McIntosh's wife, Jamie, testified she met her husband when they were 16 and married on his June 2005 birthday.
When Walsh asked whether McIntosh had "anger issues," his wife responded: "not at all."
A tearful Jamie McIntosh described her husband as very quiet and reserved, someone she loves very much.
McIntosh, she said, was there for the birth of all four of their children, ages 9, 8, 5 and 1, and is active in their lives in "every way you could imagine."
"He was just as involved raising our children as I am," she said. "He took care of the babies while I was recovering" from having cesarean sections.
Jamie McIntosh said she has never seen her husband get angry at their children or get into a fight.
While McIntosh might get into an argument, she said, he would walk away to avoid a fight.
The children, she said, miss their father.
"I'm an emotional wreck," she said. "It's been a big adjustment since their daddy was always there. ? They want him."
Jamie McIntosh asked for mercy for her husband and that he be sentenced to the minimum.
McIntosh also testified on his own behalf and again indicated he was sorry for his actions and remorseful.
"I'm not a violent person," McIntosh said in response to questioning from his other attorney, Steve Walsh.
McIntosh also confirmed he had substance abuse issues at the time of the crime and that treatment would be appropriate.
"Are you sorry it happened?" the Steve Walsh said.
"Very much so," said McIntosh, who was in special education though the ninth grade.
"Are you asking the judge for the lowest sentence possible based on all the conditions?" Steve Walsh asked.
McIntosh answered yes.
"Although you didn't intend for the death to happen, it did happen, and you're accepting full responsibility?" Steve Walsh asked.
"Yes, I am," McIntosh said.
Barbour then presented the court with several victim impact statements from family members and told the court some of them wanted to address the court.
Betty Slagle, Zoey's great-grandmother, said she frequently baby sat Zoey while her mother worked and never had any problems with her.
"She always waited for her mom to come and get her when she got off work," Slagle said.
McIntosh, she said, only began keeping Zoey after her family moved.
"We'll never see her again; she's gone," Slagle said. "He'll see his kids again. ?
"She meant so much to us. She was a treasure. I just miss her so much."
Slagle said Zoey's family can't forget her.
"I don't want to forget her; it's not right you know," Slagle said. "You've got to walk away. You can't just do something" like what happened to Zoey.
McIntosh, according to earlier reports, admitted to officers he had disciplined Zoey by spanking her. The girl had been crying and wanting her parents.
McIntosh also admitted to throwing her on the couch, as well as striking her five to seven times behind the head.
Slagle said Zoey "never asked to be treated like that."
Larry Moore told the court he had been around Zoey since she was 6 months old.
"Four years, one month and two days is all that child got," Moore said.
Laying two "little mints" on the table in front of McIntosh, Moore told how he would stick mints in his pocket from restaurants to take home for Zoey.
Moore said Zoey was "good to find them" on the dining room table or on a dresser because she "knew her Larry" would have them for her.
Zoey, he said, would go to her "nana" and tell her she was "really hungry; Nana would tell her to get one."
Moore said he put one of each mint in Zoey's casket; they were "the last two I got to give to her."
While many may say they forgive the person responsible for a family member's death, Moore said, he couldn't.
"I'll find a measure of peace when you're screaming in hell," Moore said.
On Feb. 17, 2011, "all of us, Zoey's family, were sentenced to life without parole," Moore said. "We don't get her back. He'll get to walk in 25 years. That ain't right."
Moore urged the judge to keep McIntosh the "whole 25 years."
Also speaking were Scott and Krista Russell, Zoey's uncle and aunt.
"We don't get the opportunity to hear from Zoey; we don't get the opportunity to know her last moments of life," Krista Russell said.
Krista Russell said they are left with scattered pieces.
McIntosh, she said, will have the opportunity to be out in the public again, but "Zoey won't. ... We are left with memories."
Krista Russell said she never thought she would be planning the funeral for a 4-year-old, buying clothes for her "to wear when she goes to heaven" or deciding on what "toys to go with her."
It is difficult to reconcile what one person's actions can do to everyone around them, Krista Russell said.
"It wasn't a stranger," but someone "involved with the family, my brother's friend, someone he trusted," she said.
The worst part is the betrayal of that trust, said Krista Russell, who described the situation as a "nightmare for all involved."
Krista Russell said she felt "most sorry" for McIntosh because he was going to have to look at himself in the mirror, knowing what he had done.
"I pray that you find the Lord" and peace, she said.
Before Lewis sentenced him, McIntosh again said he was "very sorry."
Lewis described this as a "hard case."
The maximum available, he said, is 25 years per the plea agreement.
Some, Lewis said, believe the sentence imposed by the court equates to the value of the victim's life. "That is not true," he said.
In this case, given McIntosh's background and his having no propensity of violence, "you may ask how this happened," Lewis said. "What happened is Mr. McIntosh lost his temper," which resulted in the death of a 4-year-old.
Lewis said he considered all the facts of the case in making his decision to sentence McIntosh to 25 years in prison.
Poplar Bluff, MO