MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A jury was chosen Tuesday in the Berkeley County Circuit Court trial of a Hedgesville man charged in the 2016 death of a toddler.
Michael McKinley, 31, faces a single count of death of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian by child neglect.
The charges stem from the May 2016 death of 14-month-old Wesley Todd Mowery III, whom prosecutors say was scalded with hot bath water while under the care of McKinley. He reportedly had burns on 95 percent of his body and “head trauma consistent with child maltreatment,” according to a forensic pediatrician.
The toddler’s mother, Brittany Reuille, 26, has entered a plea agreement in the case and is scheduled to be sentenced in May. She had faced three counts of child neglect creating substantial bodily harm. She had reportedly turned the hot water heater up prior to the incident because the water was not getting hot.
Reuille is among the nearly two dozen witnesses that could be called by Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Hassan Rasheed and Kevin Watson, including medical staff from the DC area children’s hospital where the youngster was taken, local EMTs, and law enforcement.
Rasheed has said no plea agreement was offered to the defendant in this case. For their part, defense attorneys John Sutton and Frank Aliveto listed at least six witnesses.
Police have reportedly received information that McKinley may have been drinking on the day of the incident.
Berkeley County Circuit Judge Michael Lorensen oversaw the jury selection Tuesday, asking nearly 50 potential jurors whether they had any relationships with anyone involved in the case, any interactions with law enforcement, or any overwhelming emotional response to the facts of the case, which involve the death of a young child, that would prevent them from rendering an unbiased opinion.
By noon, six men and six women were chosen for the jury with two alternates.
Opening statements were set to get underway later Tuesday afternoon.
Story by WEPM Radio News reporter Marsha Chwalik