Mother draws 3-year prison term

By Peter H. Milliken


The mother of a 58-day-old baby, who died in his parents’ North Evanston Avenue residence nearly four years ago, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no contest to a child-endangering charge.

Tiffany Berger, 28, drew the prison time Wednesday from Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. She will be eligible for judicial release six months after she enters prison, and the prosecution agreed to stand silent on the matter of judicial release for her.

The judge put the baby’s father, Jesse B. LeFlore, 27, who pleaded no contest to the same charge, on probation.

In plea agreements, the prosecution dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge against both defendants.

J’Berto LeFlore was pronounced dead sometime after Berger and LeFlore called an ambulance June 19, 2007, to report the baby was not breathing in his crib.

A coroner’s investigation determined the baby died from illness and malnourishment, and police said the death appeared to result from parental neglect due to malnourishment.

A prosecution expert said the baby died of malnutrition, but a defense expert said the baby died from a birth defect, said Natasha Frenchko, an assistant county prosecutor.

Frenchko said she made the plea deal because it’s uncertain which expert a trial jury would have believed, and the outcome of a trial would have been uncertain.

“Having this plea agreement ensures that there will be responsibility placed on both defendants,” Frenchko said.

The prosecution recommended the harsher sentence for Berger because it believed she was more culpable because she spent more time with the child and did more of the child care, Frenchko added.

The long delay in concluding the case was due to postponements of court dates due to a change in defense counsel and to the need to await the defense expert’s opinion, she added.

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