Crime & Courts

Possible plea deal outrages dead infant's family

The mother of a 10-month-old Wichita boy is voicing outrage that a prosecutor is considering an agreement that would allow a man to plead guilty to a reduced charge in her son's death.

Last summer, the prosecutor said in court that Karsyn Young died last March after suffering numerous blunt-force injuries and that Shawn Blackburn was the only one with the child around the time he died.

Blackburn had been scheduled to face trial Monday on a first-degree murder charge. The trial has been postponed.

Stormie Young, Karsyn's mother, said that prosecutor Kim Parker met Friday with her and about 10 of her relatives and friends and said she would prefer to let Blackburn plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree reckless murder.

Under the possible agreement, Blackburn would face a maximum of 10 years in prison, which could be reduced with good behavior, Young said.

In an interview with The Eagle later Friday, Young, 21, said she and her family are "very upset and very outraged" about the possibility of a plea deal and won't accept any guilty plea other than to first-degree murder.

"My biggest thing is, what kind of message is this going to send" about alleged killing of young children, Young said.

Blackburn's defense attorney, Charlie O'Hara, declined to respond to Young's comments.

Parker, when asked about Young's comments, said, "The case is still pending." Parker said she couldn't comment on specifics, but confirmed that she met with Karsyn's family and wanted to have their input.

Prosecutors meet with victims' families to "listen to and consider their thoughts and feelings and emotions," Parker said.

Young said it's hard for the family to understand why a lesser charge could be considered "when from the beginning they told us they have a good case."

Lela Warner, Karsyn's maternal great-grandmother, said of a possible plea agreement: "I don't know why Shawn (Blackburn) should get a choice in it (with a plea agreement). Karsyn didn't get a choice."

Warner, who lives in Missouri and didn't attend the family's two-hour meeting with Parker, said Parker told her early on that the evidence was strong.

At a preliminary hearing in June, where a judge found probable cause to try Blackburn on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse, Parker said that Blackburn was the one with the toddler in the 36 hours or so before he died. According to other testimony, the boy was fine when his grandmother baby-sat him about two days before he died.

On March 22, emergency crews found Karsyn unresponsive and cold to the touch when they responded to a call that he was not breathing, at Blackburn's duplex in the 8700 block of West Nantucket.

At the time, Blackburn was Young's ex-boyfriend, and she had left her toddler in Blackburn's care. In the interview Friday, Young said that although Blackburn was a former boyfriend when she left her son with him, she and her family had trusted Blackburn. "Both of my boys knew him as Dad."

At the June hearing, Parker said an autopsy found numerous blunt-force injuries that couldn't be accidental.

But O'Hara, the defense attorney, argued at the hearing that nothing showed the death was intentional.

O'Hara said that Young neglected her son, that he was failing to gain weight, that he had a previous broken leg and that he was missing medical appointments.