Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Man enters plea in child's death

Scarber could be sentenced to 14 years in prison

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - A 28-year-old Indiana man accepted a plea agreement minutes before he was to stand trial Monday for killing 2-year-old Jacob Troy Donskey in February 2001.

Christopher Wayne Scarber of Milan, Ind., walked into the courtroom wearing a crisply ironed white polo shirt and khaki pants and told a judge he accepted responsibility for Jacob's death.

"I caused an injury to Jacob Donskey that led to his death," Scarber said as Jacob's family sat in the gallery and cried.

Scarber, a former part-time security guard, said little else during his half-hour courtroom appearance.

Jacob died at University Hospital on Feb. 6, 2001, after suffering head injuries the day before at his grandmother's home in Independence. The grandmother, who was the child's legal guardian, left Jacob, his 5-year-old sister and 6-month-old brother with baby sitter Karen Walton, whom police described as Scarber's girlfriend.

Under the plea agreement, Scarber pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter in exchange for a sentencing recommendation of 14 years in prison. Under state sentencing laws, he will be eligible for parole after serving 80 percent of his sentence - or 11 years and two months.

He was indicted for murder, a charge that carried a penalty of 20 to 50 years in prison or a life sentence.

Jacob's mother, who did not have custody of her three children at the time of Jacob's death, was not happy with the plea agreement.

"Bill Crockett is a coward," said 26-year-old Angela Donskey, referring to the Kenton County commonwealth attorney. "It could have gone to trial. He would have got life (in prison. Crockett) did what was best for him, not my child."

Angela Donskey said the family hoped a trial would bring all the facts surrounding the death into the open. She said she still doesn't know why Scarber assaulted her child.

"My decision was not based on what was politically expedient," said Crockett after the plea. "It was based on what I thought was right. Jacob's picture is emblazed on my mind. His best interests were always on my mind."

Crockett said he believes Scarber kicked Jacob in the head, causing the injuries that eventually killed him. But he said he couldn't prove that in court.

"This case was circumstantial on its best day," said Crockett. "We can prove the fatal injuries were not caused by a fall, as (Scarber) originally claimed, but I can't prove he kicked him. I don't have a shoe with DNA on it."

Had the case gone to trial, Crockett said he feared Scarber might have been convicted only of second-degree manslaughter.

That crime carries a penalty of five to 10 years in prison and the inmate is eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of his sentence. Crockett said that meant, calculating the time Scarber had already served awaiting trial, he would have been eligible for parole immediately.

Scarber will be sentenced Aug. 19 before Kenton Circuit Judge Steven Jaeger.


E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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