ELYRIA — Alyson Sweany sobbed Thursday as she asked a county judge to spare her prison time for her role in the death of her 3-year-old son, Jesse Crum Jr., last year, but she barely reacted as Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi imposed a four-year prison sentence.
She will be on probation for five years after her release from prison.
Sweany, 23, pleaded guilty in March to three counts of endangering children, although she had mulled whether to try to withdraw that plea and argue that Jesse’s death was the result of a blood platelet disorder, rather than physical abuse at the hands of her late boyfriend, Peter Jones. Her plea came after prosecutors said they were considering charging her with involuntary manslaughter in her son’s death.
Sweany apologized Thursday for the pain her actions had caused the family of the boy’s father, Jesse Crum Sr., but also said that she, too, has agonized over her son’s death.
“From the bottom of my broken heart, I am so sorry for the mistakes I made,” she said.
She also said that her main goal in life now is to be reunited with the son she had with Jones. The boy was taken from her by Lorain County Children Services following Jesse’s death.
Assistant County Prosecutor Laura Dezort said that Sweany failed her son by staying with the abusive Jones and telling co-workers in the days before Jesse’s death she wasn’t sure whether to believe Jesse when he told her that Jones was responsible for the bruises that covered his body.
Dezort also said that there was no medical evidence to back defense attorney Paul Griffin’s argument that a blood disorder led to Jesse’s death.
Griffin declined to comment after the sentencing.
“There’s no indication that this was a disease,” Dezort said. “This was abuse, and she ignored it.”
While some spectators averted their eyes and cried as Dezort put photos of Jesse’s battered body up on an overhead projector, Sweany remained calm and looked at the pictures, which showed bruises on Jesse’s head, arms, legs and chest. Dezort said the abuse was so bad that there were bruises on the bottom of the boy’s feet.
Jesse was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on March 15, 2010, and died less than a week later from his injuries. An autopsy later determined the cause of death was blunt head trauma, brain hemorrhages and pneumonia.
Sweany’s family and other supporters have contended that Jesse was fine in the days leading up to the trip to the hospital. They suggested he may have been injured when a bookcase he was climbing on in the Amherst home of Jones’ parents, Dallas and Therese Jones, fell on him. They have also said that the boy never told anyone about the incident.
Christina Crum, Jesse’s paternal grandmother, said that story didn’t make sense and was just another example of Sweany and her family trying to cover up the abuse Jesse suffered at the hands of Peter Jones.
“One thing I’m certain of is a bookcase did not leave knuckle marks,” Crum said.
Crum said that she knew Jesse was in danger from Jones following a January 2009 incident in which Jesse was scalded in a bathtub while Jones was baby-sitting. It wasn’t until Sweany returned to their apartment five hours after that incident that prosecutors have said Jesse was taken to the hospital.
Dezort also showed photos of severe burns to Jesse’s buttocks, legs and genitalia from the 2009 case during the hearing. Jones pleaded guilty to endangering children charges in that case.
He hanged himself in his parents’ house in June 2010, days before he was set to be sentenced in that case. He died before a county grand jury handed up charges in connection with Jesse’s death.
Jones’ parents both pleaded guilty to endangering children and drug charges stemming from a marijuana growing operation police found inside their house while searching for evidence on how Jesse was injured. They received probation in the case.
Griffin had also asked Miraldi to give Sweany probation in the case. Griffin said she was attending school, working in a restaurant and attending grief counseling.
Crum, however, urged Miraldi to sentence Sweany to prison.
“This was not an act of God. This was an act of violence and neglect,” Crum said. “This was not meant to be.”
After Sweany was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, Crum said she was pleased with the sentence.
“She got what she deserved,” she said. “It’s time to move on.”