MAYVILLE – A 14-year-old girl will face charges of first-degree manslaughter in the death of 21-month-old Joshua Jock Jr. on Monday night in the Town of Harmony.
The toddler’s death was ruled a homicide by strangulation after an autopsy was conducted.
“It is a tragic situation all the way around,” Chautauqua County District Attorney David A. Foley said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. Bail of $1 million cash or $2 million property bond was set when the teenager was arraigned Tuesday night.
Authorities have withheld the teenager’s name because of her age.
Foley said he has not made a decision on whether to charge the girl as an adult.
Joshua was under the guardianship of Paula Mason, who is connected with Little Racers Day Care Center.
The little boy and a 16-month-old baby were in the care of the 14-year-old suspect at Mason’s home.
Sometime after 11 p.m. Monday, someone called 911 to report an unresponsive child at the guardian’s home. The boy received CPR and was rushed to WCA Hospital in Jamestown, where he was pronounced dead.
Joshua reportedly has not been in the custody of his parents for more than a year. Authorities said the child was removed from his parents’ care after he was found to be malnourished.
The toddler who also was at Mason’s home under the care of the teenager was not injured, the district attorney said.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said he was informed the day care center license was revoked on Wednesday.
The teenage suspect is being held in a Buffalo-area juvenile facility. She will face the Class B felony charge either in Chautauqua County Court or in Family Court. If convicted of the crime as a youthful offender, she could face 3½ to 10 years in prison. If she is charged and convicted as an adult, she could face 25 up to 25 years behind bars.
The teen suspect was arraigned in local court and waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She has been assigned an attorney. A pre-indictment conference would be the next step in the legal proceedings.
Gerace said his department did not have any issues with the child’s being placed with the guardian.
“Obviously, we have no decision making on where a child may be placed,” he said. He said he is not aware of any investigation with the county’s child protection agency.
Authorities also did not question allowing a 14-year-old to care for the children.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with a 14-year-old acting as a babysitter,” Foley said.
He said that leaving children with a teenager is not considered a crime and that the guardian has not been charged. However, he said, an investigation is still continuing and other charges may result from the incident.