Mother sentenced to prison for burning baby

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Local prosecutors say it's one of the worst cases of child abuse they've seen. And Jana Weir will spend time behind bars for allegedly burning her baby who was nine months old at the time.

Prosecutor Sharon Wilson showed poster sized photos of the badly burned baby to Judge Mike Canaday as she described the severity of injuries to the child and how experts say it could not have happened the way the mother said. Weir told two stories of how her then 9 month old daughter was burned. First she claimed to have dropped a pot of boiling noodles on her. Says Wilson, "The emergency room doctor immediately knew that was very suspicious and could not have occurred that way because of the burn pattern. It was not a splash burn pattern."

And when confronted by a nurse, prosecutors say the mom changed her story, saying it happened in the bathtub when the baby's four year old sister turned on the hot water while Weir stepped out of the bathroom to get a towel.

But Wilson says experts conclude the baby suffered classic immersion burn, as illustrated child abuse manuals, where a child is pinned down leaving clear lines of demarcation. She says the baby's sister would have had neither the motor skills or strength to do that. Plus in an accident Wilson says there would have been splash marks on the baby and the sibling. "The doctors have said it is a classic, text book case of an immersion burn.

Wilson says the baby suffered agonizing pain. These are some of the worst burns I've seen. She had second and third degree burns about her body. The skin literally peeled away from her body and it's because of the intensive heat of the water and so the child would have suffered agony. One of the most telling things is the ambulance drivers who say that the child's screams were so intense it was above the siren, above the audible sirens of the ambulance."

Weir stood before the judge crying, insisting it was an accident and saying she was sorry. She told the court she lied about what happened because she was scared and that she would never try to hold her child in hot water. She also denied trying to blame her then four year old daughter.

Canaday sentenced Weir to fifteen years in prison at hard labor, all but two of which is suspended, which means she'll spend about two years behind bars before being eligible for parole. Canaday told her the two years in prison is purely for punishment saying the state is going to punish those who hurt children.

Once out Weir gets five years probation during which she's not allowed to be around children without supervision. Right now the grandparents have custody of the children.

Defense attorney Steve Coward declined to appear on camera but he says he may ask that the sentence be reconsidered. Some forty friends and relatives of Jana Weir sent letters to the court supporting her. Those letters were put under seal by the court.


In other court news, Judge Wilford Carter will not preside over the third Ricky Langley trial.The State Supreme Court refuses to review an appeal to keep Carter on the bench for the trial. The court says the appeal was not filed in time.

The district attorney's office wanted Carter recused because of statements about two police officers expected to be critical witnesses in the state's case.

Langley is accused of killing six year old Jeremy Guillory of Iowa in 1992.  He has been tried twice and convicted both times, first of first degree murder and later of second degree murder but given new trials as a result of appeal court rulings.

Langley will be tried for second degree murder during his third trial because higher courts have decided it would be double jeopardy for him to face the more serious charge of first degree murder as charged initially, when Guillory was first killed.

Langley has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and had given up his right to a trial by jury, meaning the judge will decide his fate.


Also in State District Court today, murder suspect Jonathan Boyer was found mentally competent to stand trial. Boyer is accused of murdering Bradley Marsh in 2002.

His trial is now set for September 21, 2009.  The defense wants a different trial date because one of the attorneys representing Boyer is pregnant and due to deliver in September. But the court finds Boyer has a right to competent appointed counsel, not necessarily the attorney of his choice.


In another case a former Barbe High swim coach was in court. Back in 2004 Knicolas Knippers was arrested for alleged improper sexual contact with a teen he was coaching. Knippers is 29 years old now and was in court this morning to plead guilty to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile. As long as Knippers follows the rules of his probation, he can avoid jail time and may one day get the incident erased from his record. He is not allowed any unsupervised contact with minors and must pay a 500 dollar fine. Knippers now lives in Florida.