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Child negligence: Ewing pleads ‘no contest’

JENNIFER EWING wipes a tear in court on Tuesday after pleading "no contest," to child negligence leading to the death of her son. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

JENNIFER EWING wipes a tear in court on Tuesday after pleading "no contest," to child negligence leading to the death of her son. Democrat photos by Shelly Thorene

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From page A1 | January 11, 2013 | 17 Comments

The woman accused of negligence leading to her son dying in a house fire pleaded no contest Tuesday morning, the day her trial was to start.

Jennifer Ewing, in a weak voice choked with emotion, replied to all of the legal questions El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud asked. She often paused between answering the question, tears sometimes rolling down her face, before softly saying “Yeah” to many of the questions, sometimes muttering over Proud.

The judge announced that the plea deal would result in six years at a state prison, with credit for good conduct, and three years of probation following release.

He then asked how she would plead to the charge of abuse or child endangerment or neglect.

“I didn’t hurt my kid. I didn’t hurt him,” she said. “I didn’t abuse him.” Of the plea, she said, “I’ll take it,” and “I don’t have a choice.” Proud said she did, however, and that, unless she changed her mind, her choice was to take the plea deal. He noted that if she did change her mind, however, she could face 16 years instead of six if she was convicted through the trial.

“I loved him with all of my heart,” Ewing said. “He was my everything. I never hurt him.”

Her attorney, Michael Atwell, told the court that “Admitting she did something is something she just can’t do,” meaning she did not believe her actions caused her son Sebastian’s death. Sebastian died after he set fire to the house with a lighter while locked in his room. According to an autopsy report, he died of smoke inhalation and fire-related injuries.

Prosecutor Lisette Suder then told the court that they were referring to negligence, the “failure to act, so to speak,” she said, “based on the criminal neglect theory,” and not affirmative action, Suder said.

Ewing said she understood that she was “asleep at midnight” and that was considered negligent.

“Is that a no contest plea?” Proud asked. “Yeah,” she replied.

At that point, Atwell, who had sat next to Ewing as she struggled through answering questions, told the court that “This isn’t going well.” He requested more time to speak to his client in private.

After a short break, Atwell said that she would have a state prison sentence, but it would not count as a strike.

Ewing pleaded no contest to the charge, but moments later became hung up when Proud asked her whether she would admit to a special allegation that the injury lead to death. After she seemed confused and would not admit the special allegation, Suder explained that in order to avoid a trial, she would need to admit and stipulate that the child died as per the Grand Jury’s findings.

“I was asleep at midnight,” Ewing repeated, before again having Suder explain the plea deal would not go through without her admitting the allegation. She asked whether Ewing was taking the plea deal because it was in Ewing’s best interest, and Ewing replied that yes, she was. She and Atwell would then stipulate that the findings of the Grand Jury, that Sebastian had indeed died from the incident, were true.

With the plea having been entered, a judgement and sentencing hearing was scheduled for Jan. 25.

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Discussion | 17 comments

  • samJanuary 11, 2013 - 11:12 am

    The words of judges and prosecutors, even lawyers are threats without making it sound like a threat. They put fear in people with the threat of more time. Justice is corrupt, especially in El Dorado County. I hope the county sinks.

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  • James E.January 11, 2013 - 5:48 pm

    Disregarding this specific case, yes, prosecutors go for the plea deal and use extreme pressure to get them. Most people fold rather than take the chance of going to trial (perhaps even some who are innocent). Probably been this way since 1791.

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  • jennJanuary 12, 2013 - 1:27 pm

    Try looking at fire invesgation reports the door was not locked print truth not lies

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netJanuary 12, 2013 - 7:35 pm

    I wrote this here a long time ago--im reposting it...so the child will be remembered when everyone is fighting fran duchampOctober 27, 2011 - 9:21 pm My grandson had wiped out on his bike several days before this fire–I meet this beautiful little boy that has passed on–there at the hospital. He had cut his arm and waited in the ER with us–waiting for his turn. He and my grandson watched movies while waiting. This beautiful innocent child had people smiling and laughing–he was friendly, funny and very very bright. He was a talker–and for being so very young–he was very articulate. I want this child to be remembered and not get lost in the trial. I remember his name and how old he was–because he came right up to me to ask if he could talk to my grandson (my grandson had messed up his face pretty bad) to make him feel better. When my daughter-in -law–told me of his death–I was so upset. I had only known him for a couple hours–but in that couple of hours he made my family feel better. Look back over the remarks above–hate does not do this little person any justice. I met the mother that night and the gentleman that the child sat with–I cant tell you any thing about them. The child was the light–he was the love you gravitated towards. If you are a family member, than talk about him…he deserves to be noted and remembered for a beautiful soul. Everyone that night in the ER were delighted to have met him…he had told my grandson how he had wiped out on the gravel with his Christmas bike–so it had been put away for awhile–but he promised my grandson that he would ware a helmet when ever he did ride it in the future. I am still so upset..how could he be gone. Please, dont let a trial allow this child to be placed in the background. Let the courts do their job. I am not any ones judge–just a momentary friend in a amazing child’s life. Good bye little one.

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  • candyJanuary 12, 2013 - 10:36 pm

    its about time she takes responsability for her actions...sadly six years isnt enough..in six years she will get out and probably have another baby..and chances are if she already hurt the first three the next one wont stand a chance..along with her sentance she should have to have her tubes tied..

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  • oh brotherJanuary 13, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    Yes a plea deal is what they want even when innocent. They honestly don't care. Very sneaky, lying pressure is what they put on a person. I am not just talking about this case or just this County, although, El Do County seems to be particularly good at at. If I had the chance to do it again, I would never have let my son (who has a disablity and did not understand the system) plead out. I should not have listened to even his attorney. We should have gone to trial. Kick myself everyday of my life. The alleged "victims" in the case were the true perpetrators.

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  • Dave in KelseyJanuary 13, 2013 - 8:56 pm

    I'm confused. If the door wasn't locked, then why the charges? And even if it was locked, and the mother had an issue with the boy causing problems at night... is locking him in his room a crime? The boy started the fire; not the mother. Are they bent because she didn't die in the fire trying to save him? What is the number one rule you are taught when there is a fire? And chances are, the boy was dead before the mother could do anything anyways. There are so many questions this story doesn't answer. Was she a bad mother? Maybe... Are we the people, since that's who the district attorney represents, okay with railroading a poor mother? As for El Dorado County being unjust, the poor get screwed, pretty little girls get off with a slap on the wrist.

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  • Erlys Brooks PichetteJanuary 16, 2013 - 8:22 am

    It is so sad that so many details of this horrible horrible thing have not come to light. Jen I love you sweetheart. To the lady in the ER...yes Bash was a joy and a true light he was a great lil guy...one i am so proud and honored to call my grandson...he is missed more than the words i can type here. I wish other people had taken the time to get to know Jen and Sebastian....yes Jen messed up in her past and she has PAID for that in SPADES...why do people who have nothing to gain continure to say such mean horrible untruths about her?? To the person who said Jen will just have more kids upon relase...you know nothing...she cannot nor would she EVER. She said right there for ALL to hear that she was ASLEEP...and according to the FIRE REPORTS themselves the door was NOT locked....it was a terrible terrible accident and that is that...quit attacking JEN....its unfair to say the mean things certain folks are. again i say....I LOVE YOU JENNIFER and i will always be your mama. xoxoxox

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  • MichelleJanuary 18, 2013 - 1:02 pm

    Sadly, this does not bring Sebastian back... After losing her first 2 children to the State, how can she say it is not her fault? She LEFT him.... At least it is over, she has her consequence with prison and forever knowing she is responsible for the death of a beautiful baby boy...

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  • Lori G. in Garden ValleyJanuary 18, 2013 - 5:48 pm

    I have very recently become acquainted with this case. I have read the articles and I do not feel that this woman has done anything wrong. I feel it is enough punishment that she lost the child that she loved. I'm very surprised how cruel the courts are handling this accident. I'm glad she didn't run in and kill herself too. This is NOT justice!!!

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  • MichelleJanuary 19, 2013 - 9:05 am

    Did you read the grand jury testimony? Read it... you will see how negligent she was

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  • jennJanuary 24, 2013 - 7:45 pm

    The D A ask questions only to benefit them not any that are truly how daily life was just that minute. And they twist your words to make you sound evil you try losing your son and trying to understand how life goes after losing the one thing in life that ment anything. Michelle your just a mean woman who isnt any better than anyone else in this world. you know nothing about my life or his besides what his father tells you ok. So all of you know my son was not locked in the room.i fell asleep watching tv after putting him to bed.i tried my hardest to save him as did my father and my boyfriend.i pray every second i wouldn't have fallen asleep but as a single mom that kinda happens being tired.. and it was mid night also.i do suffer every day because hes gone and i will for the rest of my life. I might of been a " bad mom" 9 years ago i left my kids w babysitter that hurt them i did not.i passed there lie detection test and everything because noone stood up and told how my daughter got hurt i lost her. I paid for making a bad judgment . Sebastain was my whole world he gave me life and happiness and he greatest feeling i could imagine you have no clue how much love we had i never left him w anyone except for when i let his father see him . sit there and write you fake comments i hope it makes you feel better about your self and i pray god never lets anything like this happen to you it was a horrible accident and could have happened to anyone. I took the plea because i didnt want the world knowing my whole life and its sad that people dont even remember all the great times and happiness in life they just want to put there hate out so the world can see it and its sad. Sebastain malachi ewing i love you with all my heart and all of my world forever.i miss you so much.

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  • MichelleJanuary 24, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    Jenn- an attorney was appointed to you, in order to ask appropriate questions, to clear you of any wrong doing that you are accused of and that you are not guilty of. You said you took a deal because you didn't want "them" in your life. If you are innocent of wrong doing, then what does it matter if they dig around in your life? If you are innocent, then why would you take a deal? I have never thought for one minute that you purposely wanted to kill Sebastian. When reading the Grand Jury Testimony, your testimony and your neighbors and other witnesses testimony, I feel that Sebastian's death was a horrible, but preventable accident. I feel that you were negligent in your parenting responsibility. You are absolutely right, I was not there. Only you know what really happened and if it was preventable or not. Only you.

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  • MichelleJanuary 24, 2013 - 9:07 pm

    Frances- thank you so very much for the amazing story that you shared about Sebastian. I read it at the memorial service we had for him. It was so beautiful and captured his essence so perfectly. Thank you again....

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  • HelenJanuary 28, 2013 - 5:39 am

    How can you be soo sad about losing a child you were giving away. He did not have one thing in that house ynou wouldent even get up to go see your other son who was takin away with shaken baby. Oh thats right yet once agin It was the babysitter not you right?! You wouldent even get up to go see him!! I did and my husband. We knew jon's ou coulet even pass a drug test. Rmember when you tried to use mouth wash to pass an orel swab drug test for what.....meth. You can lie to everyone else and say how good you are and how its not You were to busy Getting high o an old abondon schoolbus in the woods. Remember jen. I know i do.

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  • SHFebruary 08, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    Did the sentencing hearing occur on Jan. 25?

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  • CandiFebruary 26, 2013 - 1:56 pm

    I have been following this case and have read all of the related articles. The neighbors, friends, and family have all testified that she was a terrible mother and that her and her father would rather smoke meth than take care of her little boy. He was 4 years old and wandering the neighborhood alone?? Wow that sounds like some stand up parenting right there.... The grandfather stated that Sebastian was caught earlier in the day playing with a lighter that he found in the house so he was sent to his room. Is that really the best way to teach your child that something as serious as playing with fire is wrong? Why wouldn't you search his room for lighters or matches etc..? It sounds like this was a cry for attention on Sebastian's part but it was obviously ignored by the 3 adults that lived in the home. There were 3 people in that trailer the night of the fire and your telling me that no one could kick down a trailer door and rescue him? Im sorry but if anyone really did care they would have died trying to save him but instead they were more concerned with saving themselves. The state of CA should have made it mandatory that she have her tubes tied after her 2nd child was taken away from her by CPS. She deserves a lot more than 6 years in prison that is for sure. If she was really innocent she would have been a woman and stood trial and prove to the court of law that she was innocent. But instead she took the easy way out by taking the ple bargain surpirse surprise. It is apparent that she has A LOT more to hide if she is unwilling to go on tril and take the stand to defend herself against such harsh alligations. Point blank if your innocent of a crime then prove it in a court of law. There are so many people in this world that can not have children and then you see cases like this where people treat their children like animals and choose dope over the welfare of their children. This woman is a waste of space and she belongs behind bars for the rest of her life. Karma is a B*&$^ and this will come back to haunt you for the rest of your life. This is a very sad story and my heart goes out to those that loved and cared for Sebastian. This is about justice for Sebastian and unfortunately justice was not served in this case. We can just hope and pray that this woman does not have a fourth child when she is out of prison.

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