Heather R. McCoy was displeased with what was happening in court Tuesday. Judge Karl Hanson could see it on her face.
When Hanson said things the Beloit woman didn’t like, she shook her head or extended the fingers of both hands in apparent frustration and glanced to her left at her husband and co-defendant, Lakeidric J. McCoy.
Heather, 42, and Lakeidric, 40, of 1629 Dewey Ave., Beloit, each pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one count of child neglect causing bodily harm, a felony, and five misdemeanor counts of child neglect.
As part of a plea agreement, the McCoys got a chance to have the felonies dismissed if they can successfully complete probation. If not, they would be found guilty and sentenced on the felonies, which could include a prison sentence.
Tuesday’s hearing determined how long they would spend on probation. Hanson rejected defense attorneys’ arguments for 18 months and agreed with prosecutor Scott Dirks, who called for three years.
But Hanson said Heather’s behavior since the previous hearing—rolling her eyes whenever she disagreed with what he said—deserved jail time.
Hanson said Heather’s actions led him to believe she did not appreciate the risk into which she had placed her and others’ children.
Hanson said Heather had tried to “explain away” the facts of the case in her statement to the court and said he fears she was refusing to take responsibility.
So Hanson ordered her to spend 60 days in jail, although he allowed the sheriff to decide whether she could serve that time at home on a monitoring bracelet, and he gave her 60 days to get her affairs in order before she begins her jail time.
“Ma’am, I don’t take this lightly. I don’t take pleasure in doing this,” Hanson said. “I, unfortunately, base this on what I’ve seen here in the courtroom today, that this is necessary for you to understand that what you’ve done is wrong, and the community demands you do better in the future.”
Hanson said the McCoys’ neglect of their six children and two others they were caring for shocked the community.
One child, almost 1 year old, apparently had spent his life in a playpen and had consumed only formula, never learning how to chew, Hanson said.
The criminal complaint describes garbage bags and rat feces on the kitchen table. The place smelled of mold, garbage, their five dogs and dirty diapers, officials reported after entering the house in March 2018.
One of the children told officials he hadn’t had breakfast or lunch that day and said marks on his neck were from another child choking him. A woman who had known the boy said she didn’t recognize him that day because he had become so thin.
Another child had been bitten and beaten with a belt by other children.
Two children taken to foster care were up vomiting that night because their stomachs were not used to so much food. One was found at the refrigerator at night trying to hide food in his pajamas so he would have something to eat the next day, according to the complaint.
No toothbrushes were found in the house.
Dirks said Heather had no previous criminal record, and Lakeidric’s was “minimal” and “dated.”
But there is no excuse for the “appalling” conditions that no child should have to grow up in, Dirks said.
Heather’s attorney, Michael Murphy, said the couple’s poverty and the fact that they were moving led to the conditions in the house, and he said they had changed their ways.
Lakeidric’s attorney, Josh Klaff, suggested the McCoys were “overwhelmed” when they took on the task of raising two additional children whose mother was in a drug treatment program, and the McCoys likely suffered from depression.
Hanson said he understood the McCoys were poor, but he told them, “Your being overwhelmed is no excuse for neglect.”
Hanson, noting the 12 bottles of liquor found on a kitchen counter of the home—although Heather said they were making lamps from the bottles—ordered she and Lakeidric must maintain absolute sobriety during probation.
Unlike Heather, Lakeidric stayed calm through the hearing.
Hanson also noted letters of support from volunteers who had helped and monitored the McCoys over the past year as they had their children returned to them and changed their ways.
Hanson noted the couple are now running an acceptable household and said the community needs to see three more years of such behavior as they are supervised by the state Department of Corrections.