Man Accused of Murdering Toddler, Lying to Police

A West Palm Beach man told police that his child was injured when two dogs attacked him. However, medical personnel found wounds inconsistent with a dog bite. Investigators instead believe that the child suffered blunt-force trauma related to the suspect’s efforts to get him into the shower to take a shower. In the effort, the man caused several serious injuries that led to the boy’s death. Earnest Jenkins, 22, is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and child abuse.

In October, The Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed a complaint of child abuse after the child was found unresponsive. The toddler was taken to the pediatric ICU with multiple injuries including bruising and bone fractures. After several surgeries, the child died.

A woman in the home with the child told investigators that the boy was pushed in the bathroom. He fell back face-up but struck his head hard enough that his eyes began rolling back in his head. The woman told police that people in the home began to “freak out” and tried CPR before calling an ambulance. Eventually, Jenkins admitted to “scooping up” the boy “a little too hard”.

Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child

Aggravated manslaughter of a child is charged when a caregiver causes the death of the child as a result of negligence. Negligence requires that the caregiver owed the child a duty of care, failed in that duty of care, and the child’s death resulted from that failure. In other words, the caregiver’s conduct was so reckless that it represented a disregard for the child’s safety and wellbeing. Only a caregiver can be charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.

Aggravated manslaughter of a child is considered a first-degree felony in Florida with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Absent grounds for a downward departure sentence, the judge is required by law to sentence anyone convicted under this statute to at least 13 years in prison.

Defenses to Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child

Generally speaking, while aggravated manslaughter of a child occurs by accident (meaning that the caregiver did not intend to kill the child) it requires some other law to be broken at the same time. In other words, a defendant can claim that their conduct was legal, they did not break the law, and it was just sad misfortune that resulted in the child’s death. The law also permits “heat of passion” defenses to aggravated manslaughter of a child and, of course, if your child is trying to kill you, you can justifiably defend yourself with lethal force.

In this case, the defendant caused enough injuries to the child to kill him. The child may have been disobedient, but they shouldn’t be dead. That alone, however, is not enough to convict this defendant under Florida law. The defendant has possible leverage to reduce the charges against him.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re being charged with a serious crime, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can protect you from excessive punishment.


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