Deal reached in baby bathtub death

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Mike DuPre'
Thursday, September 4, 2008
— The prosecution and defense have reached one plea agreement and are close to another in the criminal neglect cases prompted by the death of 14-month-old Israel Gordon.

The toddler’s father probably will serve a year in county jail and five years on probation, and the father’s girlfriend most likely will be on probation for 18 months with required counseling.

The boy died after what his father—Charles R. Rivers, 35, Janesville—described as a bathtub accident in his apartment on Linn Street in Janesville in December 2007.

Instead of seeking immediate medical treatment for the baby, who suffered obvious brain trauma, Rivers and his girlfriend—April S. Peabody, 27—made a run to Beloit to buy drugs to feed Rivers’ heroin habit, according to the criminal complaints against them.

Rivers and Peabody initially were charged with obstructing an officer and felony child neglect resulting in death.

Peabody pleaded guilty to obstructing and an amended charge of misdemeanor child neglect. She is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary said Wednesday that he entered the plea agreement because Peabody’s end of the deal would be “to testify truthfully about all the events surrounding the death.”

In exchange for her testimony, O’Leary said, the second part of the agreement was that the prosecution and defense would jointly recommend a sentence of 18 months probation for Peabody with required parenting classes and alcohol and drug assessment.

The judge in Peabody’s case—Michael Fitzpatrick—is not bound by the agreement or sentence recommendation.

In another court Wednesday, Rivers waived his right to a jury trial and had Dec. 17 set as the date for a trial before Judge James Daley. Rivers’ attorney—assistant public defender Don Weeden—told Daley that his client and the prosecution were close to a plea agreement.

After the hearing, O’Leary said he thought that he, Rivers and Weeden had an agreement in place.

That agreement calls for Rivers to plead guilty to the felony neglect charge, O’Leary to dismiss the obstructing charge and a joint prosecution-defense recommendation for a sentence of one year in county jail and five years probation with alcohol and drug assessment, the district attorney said.

When he was told that Weeden said only that an agreement was near, O’Leary said: “If it’s still pending, I’ll have to contact Mr. Weeden to find out the status.”

If the agreement with Rivers falls apart, O’Leary said he has a “rock-solid case on felony neglect” and will call Peabody to testify.

Rivers agreed to plead guilty to the felony charge because, Weeden said, he has been “very distressed. He lost a son. He wants to put this behind him.”

Rivers is now court-restricted from contact with a child that he and Peabody had together, Weeden said, and he wants the neglect case concluded so that he might sometime be allowed to see his child.

Last updated: 10:15 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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