PRINCETON — A mother and father who were arrested and charged in 2018 with starving their 20-month-old son to death were sentenced Tuesday to a term of three to 15 years in prison after entering into a plea deal in which they pleaded guilty to child neglect resulting in death.
Corey Steven Moore and his wife, Christy Ann Moore, both of Princeton, were brought before Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills for a plea hearing. After Wills reminded them of their constitutional rights including the right to a jury trial, they pleaded guilty to a felony, child neglect resulting in death, and were sentenced to serve three to 15 years in prison.
The parents were also charged with murder of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian, which carries a sentence of life in prison. If a jury recommended mercy, they would have been eligible for parole after serving 15 years of their sentences; however, parole would not be guaranteed.
Corey and Christy Moore were arrested on Nov. 8, 2018 after their 20-monthold son, Jeremiah, died at Princeton Community Hospital (PCH).
Detective Sergeant S.A. Sommers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department testified at a preliminary hearing in November 2018 that when he arrived at PCH, the child was about to be flown on a Healthnet helicopter to Charleston Area Medical Center when he went into cardiac arrest. He was hurried back to the ER, but the physicians could not revive him.
During the plea hearing Tuesday, Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said that an emergency room physician at PCH attributed the child’s condition to “extreme malnutrition.” The three other children found at the Moore home, which smelled of urine and was infested with cockroaches, also had low weight. There was “adequate food” in the home’s refrigerator, and Corey and Christy Moore had normal weight.
“Jeremiah starved to death,” Sitler said. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy had moved to Montana, and had been “uncooperative.”
During the November 2018 preliminary hearing, Sommers described the child’s condition when he was brought to PCH.
“The child was underweight and his ribs were visible,” Sommers said then. “He was dirty, his nails were unclean, there were obviously nits in his hair from lice.”
Sommers testified during the preliminary hearing that he went to the Moore home at Caboose Circle in Princeton. There he talked to Corey and Christy Moore along with other members of the family. The three other children, who were soon taken by Child Protective Services, lived there. Cockroaches could been seen throughout the home, on the walls, and in the deceased child’s bedroom.
Sommers stated then that the medical examiner verbally told him about the contents of the child’s stomach. Liquid, an insect and yarn from a blanket he had been chewing on were found, but no hard food.
On Nov. 6, 2019, a jury found Corey and Christy Moore guilty of murder by a parent, guardian, or custodian and guilty of child neglect resulting in death. The parents’ attorneys made a motion in February for a new trial.
In June this year, Judge Wills said that he had to overturn the verdict. Wills stated that the jury should have been instructed to find the parents guilty of either intentionally causing their child’s death or negligently causing his death. The jury could not find them guilty of both charges.
“In this case, the buck stops in this courtroom,” Wills said during the June hearing. “The jury did not do anything wrong. The court, meaning me, should have instructed the jury as follows: that the Moores could be found guilty of intentional acts or guilty of the death of their son through negligent acts, or they could be found not guilty.”
In light of the court’s ruling, the state offered a plea agreement, Sitler said Tuesday after the hearing.
Wills sentenced both Corey and Christy Moore to terms of three to 15 years in prison after they both pleaded guilty. They were given 40 years of extended supervision. According to the West Virginia Code, they could be given that extended supervision as well as the prison sentence, Sitler said.
“If at any time they violate the terms of supervised release, they can be sent back to the penitentiary for up to the maximum of that remaining 40 years. When they get out, they will have that facing them; also, they have to be registered with the West Virginia State Police Child Abuse Registry for the remainder of their natural lives,” he stated.
Sitler was asked why the state did not have a second trial for the parents.
“We tried the case. We got a guilty verdict to both child neglect with death and murder of a child by abuse,” Sitler said. “Judge Wills ruled that those two verdicts were legally inconsistent. Either they were negligent or they were guilty of an intentional act. After speaking to the investigating officer and reviewing the evidence, we determined that this was the appropriate result.”
The state did win the first trial, but this was before the judge made his ruling, Sitler said.
“We won that one, but that was prior to the judge’s ruling. The judge ruled that we cannot obtain a guilty verdict for both of those counts. It is legally inconsistent. The evidence supports child neglect resulting in death, but there is no admissible evidence that indicates they did anything intentional,” Sitler said.
Corey and Christy Moore will qualify for “consideration of parole” after serving three years in prison, but they could serve up to 15 years, Sitler said.
Both Christy and Corey Moore have been held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver since their arrest in November 2018, and Wills said they would receive credit for that time. Court costs will be due upon their release or if they are placed on probation, he stated.
— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com