Debra Jaeckle sentenced to probation, community service
The Scio woman who was charged with manslaughter while baby-sitting her 6-year-old granddaughter when she was shot dead by another child, avoided jail time during sentencing in Allegany County Court Friday.
Her family, however, has an order of protection against her and the child who pulled the trigger is in the “juvenile equivalent of jail,” said Allegany County District Attorney Terrence Parker.
Debra L. Jaeckle, 48, of 2968 Peterson Hill Road, was sentenced by Allegany County Court Judge James Euken to five years probation and 200 hours of community service. She was originally charged with second-degree manslaughter, a Class C felony, first-degree reckless endangerment, a Class D felony, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child.
Parker said the family of the victim, Cassandra Congdon, felt the sentence was better than jail and Parker said the boy who pulled the trigger is in the equivalent of a jail for a juvenile.
On June 22 at Jaeckle’s home, Congdon, 6, of Wellsville, was shot by her 10-year-old cousin in the head and died while under Jaeckle’s care. Parker said the maximum Jaeckle could have served in jail — if convicted — was 16 months behind bars.
“The (parents of the deceased girl) were straightforward in saying they did not want (Jaeckle) to go to prison — if she was locked up and then let loose, it would give the impression everything went away — they wanted it to go longer than that,” said Parker. “So the ones who suffered the loss, we have to give their input great weight.”
Parker said the Congdon family “did ask for, and the court did grant, an order of protection for the next five years. That was the longest we could grant under the law.”
Reading from a prepared speech and sobbing, Jaeckle explained her feelings to the court. The Congdon family was not present.
“First your honor, there is nothing I can say to replace the loss (and what) the rest of Cassandra’s family, including all the members of my family, are feeling because of my actions,” said Jaeckle. “I take full responsibility for the events of June 22. And in hindsight, I realize I should have never allowed them boys to have weapons or to shoot the weapons unless I was standing right next to them.”
Jaeckle then explained her grandson who pulled the trigger, is better off today because he is being treated for a behavioral disorder.
“I realize I overcompensated by letting him do things he should not have because of things he did not have,” said Jaeckle. “I am thankful for the foster family he had. They took care of him. “I just want to say, I have made no attempt to contact my daughter and her family, even when the five years is up, I won’t attempt to contact them,” she added. “That is something they have to want. That is all I have to say your honor.”
Parker said Jaeckle’s grandson, who pulled the trigger with Congdon’s 9-year-old brother present, remains in the foster home. A family court hearing was held after criminal court case and Jaeckle was unable to get the boy back in her care.
“He is a juvenile in detention in a foster home,” said Parker. “Being removed from his normal living situation is equivalent to jail. And he is not home and he does not have any freedom, so from a juvenile standpoint, that is equivalent to jail time.”
Jaeckle’s attorney, Ralph Lorigo of West Seneca, said Jaeckle “has to live with the tragedy every day.”
Lorigo went on to point out Jaeckle was a first-time offender with no prior criminal record. Lorigo also pointed out, “It is a tragedy certainly in Cassie’s family, but it’s also a tragedy to my client. And she has to live with the fact she is responsible for this tragedy.”
Euken explained during the sentencing to probation that Jaeckle may not have weapons for five years or leave a certain area without permission.
She will be allowed to visit her grandson, who Parker said is in a group home in the Buffalo area.
Jaeckle, who is active in her church, will not choose how the 200 hours of community service are served. Parker said that will be directed by the probation department.