CARIBOU, Maine — A Limestone teenager who was 17 years old when his 3-month-old daughter died after he allegedly threw her into her crib will be tried as an adult on a manslaughter charge, a judge ruled Friday afternoon.
Saying it was “difficult for the court to imagine a more serious offense,” District Court Judge Ronald Daigle ordered that Nicklas Jones, 18, be bound over to Aroostook County Superior Court as an adult to await action by the grand jury in connection with the April 27, 2009, death of his daughter, Joselyn Jones.
Jones pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter in Caribou District Court last May. He has been held at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston ever since. A two-day bind-over hearing, presided over by Daigle, was held two weeks ago to determine how the teenager would be tried.
According to testimony in the case, Jones told police that he threw his daughter into her crib on April 23, 2009, to stop her from crying and that she hit her head during the incident. Jones was arrested on May 1, 2009.
Maine State Police investigators said the baby died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Jones’ attorney, Anthony Trask, sought to have his client tried as a juvenile so that if convicted he would have to be released by the time he is 21 years old. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson argued for Jones to be tried as an adult, where if convicted he faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
During the bind-over hearing, Trask said Jones had in the past been an “immature” and “extremely mouthy kid” with substance abuse problems, but he also said Jones had never caused significant injury to anyone. As a juvenile, Jones was charged with assaulting his mother in 2005, refusing to submit to arrest and various probation violations, including drinking, engaging in new criminal behavior, and refusing to participate in counseling. He spent 20 days in Mountain View as punishment.
Trask said Jones had “no past history of violence” and argued that the teen should be tried as a juvenile and if convicted, remain at Mountain View to receive the services he needed to succeed as an adult.
Benson characterized the baby’s death as “an atrocity” and argued that when his daughter died, Jones was about five months away from turning 18 and was “chronologically almost an adult.”
In court Friday, Daigle agreed with many arguments Benson presented during the bind-over hearing. Daigle said he considered several factors while weighing his decision, including the seriousness of the crime and the character of the defendant.
Daigle said the victim of the crime was Jones’ “defenseless, 3-month-old daughter” and pointed out that Jones’ past behavior had been “impulsive,” “verbally abusive” and “assaultive.” He pointed to testimony that Jones had admitted to police that he threw his daughter into her crib, but said Jones “minimizes it now by calling it an accident.”
Daigle also said that Jones has been offered numerous services since he arrived at Mountain View, but has not followed through on treatment.
Jones became increasingly distressed as the judge spoke, wringing his hands together, shaking his head and eventually crying and wiping his eyes with his cuffed hands. Three family members and friends, including his mother, Jerene Rosenbrook of Old Town, were in the courtroom.
After Daigle announced his decision, Benson requested that Jones’ bail be set at $100,000 surety or $15,000 cash with numerous conditions.
Trask told Daigle that Jones’ family has virtually depleted its financial resources. He asked that bail be set at between “$20,000 and $30,000 in surety or a couple of thousand cash” with conditions.
Daigle set bail at $50,000 surety or $10,000 cash with numerous conditions, including weekly reports to law enforcement and abstaining from using drugs and alcohol.
The judge explained to Jones that he had the right to waive indictment by the grand jury during Friday’s hearing, but Jones told the judge he did not understand what he meant. Daigle ordered Trask to confer with his client so that a decision could be rendered at a later date.
Jones had not made bail as of Friday evening.