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Baby sitter pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter

by David Cole
| December 15, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - A Post Falls baby sitter pleaded guilty on Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter for the death of a 3-year-old boy in her care in October.

Amanda L. Skogen, 26, had been charged in 1st District Court with involuntary manslaughter for the killing of Cohen Johnson.

Judge Fred Gibler scheduled sentencing for Feb. 28.

Prosecutors have said Skogen got angry and pushed Johnson after he wet himself and it got on her while the two were on a couch at her house, in the 500 block of North Elm Road in Post Falls.

The boy fell backward and hit his head, and he died days later at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane after being taken off life support once his parents were told by doctors that he was brain dead.

Skogen was charged with first-degree murder after Johnson died, but a magistrate judge early this month decided on involuntary manslaughter, following a review of evidence at a preliminary hearing in the case.

Skogen's husband, Matt Skogen, declined to comment after the plea deal was finalized in court, as did Johnson's parents, Jeremy Johnson and Jennifer Gamble.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said the voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. His recommendation is for a fixed eight-year prison term, with seven more years indeterminate, during which time she would be eligible for parole.

He said he believed the voluntary manslaughter charge was more consistent with the evidence in the case, compared with the lesser involuntary charge.

Prior to Tuesday's hearing, McHugh planned to seek a dismissal of the involuntary manslaughter charge and to again file a charge of first-degree murder.

If dismissed and re-filed, McHugh said he would have made a different legal argument at the next preliminary hearing than he submitted earlier this month. He believes those new arguments likely would have resulted in a magistrate judge bounding the case over into District Court on a more serious charge than Judge Clark A. Peterson did on Dec. 1.

First-degree murder carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, and up to life in prison, McHugh said.

Punishment for individuals convicted of involuntary manslaughter can't exceed 10 years in custody.

Skogen's public defender, John Adams, couldn't immediately be reached for comment after Tuesday's plea deal was entered.

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