A Muskogee County mother convicted in a brutal case of child neglect and endangerment is now headed to prison. Melanie Smith was found guilty last month on those charges, but acquitted on a charge of child abuse.
News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin covered the trial, and was in court Monday for Smith's sentencing.
When the jury reached its verdict in November, Smith's attorney requested a pre-sentencing investigation to basically look into the defendant's background. What was her childhood like and what would she do if released, details often used to seek a lesser sentence. But after reading the report on Smith, the judge stood by the jury and handed her 16 years in prison.
Melanie Smith had no comment as she was led away in handcuffs. The judge said Smith failed at one of the most fundamental obligations in human life, a parent protecting a child.
Police took Smithâ€™s 4-year old son from her last year, starving and covered in bruises. Testimony during the trial described severe physical and psychological abuse at the hands of several family members, including Smith.
Investigators said they were shocked at the boy's condition. Smith's written statement told the court about her own childhood of abuse and molestation. She said she ran away and became a stripper at age 17, and she had another son, born with marijuana and cocaine in his system. That baby was also taken away.
When it came her turn to speak, Smith started to cry, saying, "I tried my best and I failed to protect him and I'm very sorry. I just want a chance. I'll do whatever I have to get my son back."
Muskogee County DA John David Luton: "I think it's just real interesting that the only time she starts to cry or show any real emotion is when she starts referring to herself. Clearly she's only concerned about herself, she was never concerned about Robert at all during this case."
Pre-sentencing investigators agreed. In their report, the officer stated she found Smith to be at a "high risk level for re-offending, the score indicating her willingness to change was zero. And that the officer "failed to detect any heartfelt concern" over her son's wellbeing.
Smith's attorney is already filing an appeal. Smith's husband and aunt, also accused of felony abuse, will go on trial in February.