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Attorneys Blakney and Eldridge Achieve Win in Child Neglect Case

Attorneys Tasha C. Blakney and David M. Eldridge obtained a favorable outcome in a case where our client was initially charged with felony first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect.

Our client and her husband had gone out to do laundry and then for a late dinner after our client had worked a double shift at her restaurant job. When they returned to their home in Gatlinburg, the husband decided to bring in the clothes before bringing in their 2-year-old son as he slept in the backseat of their car. Our client’s husband told her that he would take the boy in after unloading the car, and our client went inside and went to sleep. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to our client, her husband forgot to bring in the child and fell asleep while the child was still sleeping in the car.

The boy was accidentally left in the car from the early hours of the morning to late afternoon when the summer temperatures soared s. When the couple realized their mistake, they rushed out to the car, but the boy was already unresponsive.

Our client’s husband told law enforcement that it was his fault and that he had assured his exhausted wife, who had been working long hours, that she could go on to sleep and that he’d retrieve the child himself. Both our client and her husband were arrested and charged for the incident.

The boy’s father pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and child neglect and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The judge said it was clear that the man, who was a stay-at-home dad and the primary caregiver for the child, was responsible for bringing in the child, as he said he was going to do it before they went to bed.

Our client accepted a plea agreement for child neglect in March of 2019.

The judge could have sentenced our client to 4 years in prison but ordered her to serve her time on probation, noting the presentence investigation recommended such a sentence. He said it was one of the very few occasions in his 29 years on the bench that he had seen such a recommendation. The firm also presented the expert testimony of Dr. David Diamond, a University of South Florida neuroscientist and professor. Dr. Diamond is the foremost expert on memory and routine, particularly as it relates to forgotten child syndrome, and his testimony provided critical scientific context for how otherwise loving, caring, and attentive parents can fail to remember under these circumstances. It was also critically important that the firm presented evidence that our client was a loving mother, that the child had never been the subject of any abuse or neglect, and that neither alcohol nor drugs played any role in the child’s tragic death.

After her son’s death, our client went into a significant depression and is currently in a rigorous, faith-based recovery program. During sentencing, Attorneys Blakney and Eldridge asked that the judge consider the progress our client has made. The judge ruled that our client could be rehabilitated and was unlikely to re-offend and, accordingly, sentenced her to probation. It is our hope that this family will find some peace following this tragic chapter in their lives and that Jade Phillips will now be in a position to continue in her recovery and to help others who experience loss.

For Dedicated Legal Counsel Eldridge & Blakney

When our lawyers take on a case, we put our 55 years of combined experience to work, using every resource and leveraging our vast knowledge of the law, to work hard toward a favorable outcome for individuals facing criminal charges.

If you’ve been accused of an offense, call us at (865) 544-2010 or contact us online for the legal defense you need.