PRINCETON — Attorneys representing a husband and wife who were convicted in November 2019 of guilty of murder by a parent, guardian, or custodian and guilty of child neglect resulting in death have asked the presiding judge for a new trial.
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. They were later charged with murder of a child by parent, custodian or guardian and with child neglect resulting in death.
Almost a year later in Nov. 6, 2019, a Mercer County jury convicted the couple on both charges. 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.
Before the jury started its deliberations, 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 parents.
The attorneys representing the couple made a motion for a new trial after the jury delivered its verdicts. Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills said then that he would set a date to consider this motion after the defense, which has 30 days, presented their documentation.
During a motions hearing Feb. 12 before Judge Wills, attorney Joseph Harvey, who is representing Christy Moore with attorney Wyclif Farquharson, made a motion for a new trial or acquittal. Harvey argued that the state should not have charged his client with murder of a child by a parent because they did not show that Christy and Corey Moore intended for their child to die. The state statue for murder of a child by a parent requires that a person charged “maliciously and intentionally caused” the death.
The other charge, child neglect resulting in death, is a different crime, Harvey said. The jury possibly could have found his client and her husband guilty of one charge or the other, but not both.
Harvey also argued that Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler, who represented the state during the November 2019 trial, had written a letter for a Princeton Community Hospital physician, Dr. Rickey Bradley, who treated the child, and that the defense only received that letter when the trial was getting underway. Harvey said the prosecution did not inform the defense that a plea agreement had been negotiated with two co-defendants, John and Janet Adkins of Princeton, until the eve of the trial.
John and Janet Adkins, who had lived in the same home as Corey and Christy Moore, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy. On Jan. 6, Judge Wills sentenced them to a term of one to five years in prison.
In another part of the defense’s argument, Harvey said that Sitler told the jury in his closing argument that the defendants “had broken God’s law,” which “is not a legitimate argument that the Supreme Court allows.”
Attorney John Byrd, who represented Corey Moore with attorney David Kelley, said they concurred with Harvey. Byrd added that the court the jury’s verdict form incorrectly allowed the jurors to convict the parents on both the murder and negligence charges.
Sitler argued at the Feb. 12 motions hearing that by state law, the failure or refusal of a parent to provide a child food made him or her guilty of first-degree murder.
“A small child is utterly at the mercy of their parents,” Sitler said. “They have no means to obtain their own food, they have no means to go to the emergency room because they are gravely ill because they have no food.” The charges of murder of a child by parent, custodian or guardian and with child neglect resulting in death “are not mutually exclusive.”
Sitler told the court that between the four months the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) visited Christy and Corey Moore and when their child was brought to Princeton Community Hospital, they had custody of him for “24 hours a day, seven days a week.” They were unemployed, and were at the home “day and night.”
On the subject of the letter, Sitler said that he wrote the letter and sent it to the Dr. Bradley, who reviewed it and electronically signed it. Bradley was on the witness list and the defense knew that the doctor would be called as a relevant witness. The case’s medical examiner had moved to Montana and was not available to testify about the child’s autopsy.
Wills said he would take the defense motions under advisement. A decision hearing was scheduled for April. Depending on the court’s decision, the hearing could then proceed to sentencing. Corey and Christy Moore are being held at the Southern Regional Jail.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com