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MAHONING COUNTY In baby's death, judge finds probable cause



Published: Tue, February 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The woman's lawyer said he wants to get the case to trial as soon as possible.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The case of an 18-year-old North Garland Avenue woman accused of killing her infant son could be headed for a jury trial.

Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court ruled Monday that there is probable cause to believe Janell Thomas caused the death of 11-month-old Leroy Huff Jr. in October 2001. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

A hearing is scheduled for March 19 in juvenile court to determine whether Thomas should be handed over to common pleas court for trial as an adult, or whether she is amenable to the juvenile justice system.

Defense attorney Mark Lavelle said he will ask Judge Dellick to waive the amenability hearing and bind the case over to common pleas court for consideration by a grand jury.

"I want to get this case in front of a jury as quickly as I can," Lavelle said. "If a grand jury looks at this case and indicts this woman, it's my desire to go to trial as soon as possible."

Wants to resolve matter: Lavelle said he's anxious to resolve the matter because Thomas is sitting in the county jail, unable to post a $500,000 bond imposed on her. In the meantime, Judge Dellick ordered that a mental evaluation be done on Thomas, who was 17 when the child died.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Villani said the state wants to pursue the adult charges because of the serious nature of the injuries inflicted on the baby. Prosecutors say Thomas is the only person who could have inflicted those injuries.

Authorities have said the child suffered severe blows to his head, causing four skull fractures and bleeding and swelling of his brain.

Thomas contended that the baby fell off a bed and hit his head on the floor, but Judge Dellick ruled there is no evidence to support that claim. The Trumbull County Coroner's Office ruled the death a homicide.

Leroy died Oct. 11, two days after he was taken to a hospital when his grandmother found him lying on a bedroom floor with blue lips.

bjackson@vindy.com




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