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The Journal Gazette

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Thursday, November 29, 2018 1:00 am

Man fights joint-trial request in girl's death

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne man charged in the January death of a 2-year-old girl is fighting a request by the child's mother – who is also charged with felony neglect – to consolidate their trials.

Crystal M. Belcher, 29, argued in documents filed Nov. 15 by attorney Samuel Bolinger in Allen Superior Court that doing so makes sense because both cases share “common issues of law and facts” including evidence and witnesses.

Shane A. Patton disagrees in a two-page filing this week from his lawyer, Ryan Gardner. Combining the cases would instead harm Patton, 31, and ensure he doesn't get a fair trial, according to their response to Belcher's request.

“The same evidence does not exist in both cases and evidence from Crystal's case creates the potential for extreme prejudice to Shane if introduced at a joint trial,” documents signed by Gardner said. “For example, the state surely intends to introduce statements made by Crystal, which may implicate Shane. These statements would be hearsay if Crystal does not testify in Shane's separate trial.”

Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher was found dead Jan. 27 inside the family's East Butler Street home. The girl was wrapped tight in a blanket and “cold to the touch with rigor mortis,” a probable cause affidavit said.

The cause of death was neck compression, and doctors told police the girl had injuries consistent with abuse. JoJo's siblings told a therapist Patton was abusive, according to testimony from the therapist.

Belcher and Patton each are facing two felony counts of neglect, though Belcher's case has moved faster because she was arrested in April. Patton disappeared and police arrested him in October.

Belcher's trial is scheduled to start Jan. 15, and Patton's is set for March 5.

A judge has not ruled on the request from Belcher, and no hearings on the motion have been scheduled, court records said.

mleblanc@jg.net