PRINCETON — After deliberating Wednesday for more than an hour, a Mercer County jury found both a Princeton mother and father guilty of murder by a parent, guardian, or custodian and guilty of child neglect resulting in death.
Corey Moore, 29, and Christy Moore, 27, were charged after their malnourished and underweight 20-month-old son, Jeremiah, died shortly after being taken to the Princeton Community Hospital ER on Nov. 8, 2018. Both parents were later charged with murder of a child by parent, custodian or guardian and with child neglect resulting in death.
Crying and upset at times, both Corey and Christy Moore testified Wednesday that their son became sick with a cold and started losing weight, and how they tried to help him regain weight by feeding him soups, liquids such as V-8 and nutritional supplements for children.
The child weighed about 14 pounds when he was brought to Princeton Community Hospital, according Dr. Rickey Bradley of PCH, who testified Tuesday. The jury was shown photographs of how he looked, thin and emaciated, when he arrived at PCH.
Detective Sgt. S.A. Sommers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, the case’s investigating officer, was asked by Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler if the parents told him that their son had had diarrhea in the days prior to his death. Sommers said yes, but not what he would consider prolonged. He also testified that he did not “see an abundance of diapers” when he visited the home.
Corey Moore testified that his son had gone through multiple diapers that day, and that he had collected them and thrown them in the trash before anyone arrived at the home.
In their closing arguments, attorney Joe Harvey, who represented Christy Moore and attorney David Kelley, representing Corey Moore, both told the jurors that their clients were asking the jury to find them guilty of child neglect resulting in death.
Both Harvey and Kelley argued that the state had not proven the second charge, murder of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian. To do that, the state would have to prove that the parents had maliciously and intentionally caused the death of their son, both attorneys argued. The parents had testified about how they tried to care for their son and help him regain weight – which were not the actions of parents trying to murder their child – and the state had not shown what the parents’ motive would be for murdering their son.
“What we know is they loved this child and did everything they could,” Kelley told the jury. “They thought they could do it on their own. No malice. They loved their children.”
In the state’s closing argument, Sitler said that murder of a child by parent, guardian or custodian came from the refusal to provide necessary medical care. Sitler said testimony showed the parents spent much of their time playing video games while their 20-month-old son was in another room of a home “infested” with cockroaches even if Corey Moore testified that he was getting paid to play the games.
“Their child was starved by their indifference, by their inaction, and they should pay for it,” Sitler said, shouting as he rebutted the defense’s closing arguments.
Child neglect resulting in death carries a possible prison term of three to 15 years. In West Virginia, murder of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian has a penalty of life in prison.
Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills informed the jurors before they started deliberations that mercy could be recommended if they found the parents guilty on the murder charge. With mercy, Christy and Corey Moore would be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence; however, parole is not guaranteed.
The jury recommended mercy for both Christy Moore and Corey Moore.
The defense made a motion for a new trial. Wills said that he would set a date to consider this motion after the defense, which has 30 days, presented their documentation.
After the jury delivered its verdict, Sitler thanked Sommers for his investigation as well as Dr. Rickey Bradley and Dr. Antoun Bhasim of Princeton Community Hospital for their testimony. The case’s medical examiner had moved to Montana and was not available to testify about the child’s autopsy.
Corey Moore and Christy Moore are being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.
Attorneys John Byrd and Wyclif Farquharson also represented the Corey and Christy Moore.