EVERETT — Cheyanne Jarrell pleaded with a Snohomish County judge Wednesday not to send her away from her young daughter.
“She’s my life,” the 24-year-old said.
He understands why a mother doesn’t want to be separated from her child, Superior Court Judge Michael Downes said. He also reminded Jarrell that she was standing in front of him because “a young mother did have her child taken away.”
The defendant is responsible for 4-month-old Kailynn Watson’s death, Downes said. He sentenced Jarrell to 27 months in prison, the maximum under the state’s sentencing guidelines.
“You were supposed to be taking care of her while her parents were at work … instead, you killed her,” Downes said.
In September, a jury convicted Jarrell of second-degree manslaughter after a three week trial. Jurors acquitted her of a more serious degree of manslaughter. She would have faced up to 8½ years behind bars if she’d been convicted of first-degree manslaughter.
Jarrell was babysitting 4-month-old Kailynn in February 2016 in Marysville when the girl stopped breathing. Kailynn was declared brain dead three days later. Multiple exams revealed a contusion on her spine, brain bleeding and retinal hemorrhages. Doctors concluded that the spinal injury paralyzed Kailynn’s diaphragm, depriving her of oxygen.
Prosecutors alleged that Jarrell, a new mother, became frustrated while watching her own infant daughter and Kailynn and shook the girl with enough force to damage her spine.
“Ms. Jarrell’s decision in that moment … is exactly why we’re here today,” deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock said. “It’s her fault.”
Jarrell has denied shaking the girl. The defense argued that there were other explanations for why Kailynn stopped breathing, including a virus.
The defendant maintained her innocence Wednesday and offered no apology to Kailynn’s family. She plans to appeal her conviction.
She and her defense attorney, Cassie Trueblood, urged the judge to spare the young mother from being separated from her daughter, now 2. The public defender requested a 30-day jail sentence.
Trueblood asked Downes to consider her client’s young age at the time of the incident, saying current research suggests that young people’s brains aren’t fully developed until the age of 25. She also argued against concluding that the jury’s verdict meant jurors believed Jarrell was responsible for the girl’s death.
“We don’t know why they acquitted her” of the more serious charge, Trueblood said.
The verdict indicated that jurors believed Jarrell failed to be aware that her actions could put the baby’s life in danger. They didn’t find that Jarrell disregarded those risks.
There is no evidence that something or someone else was responsible for Kailynn’s death, the judge said. She died at the hands of the young woman entrusted to care for her, and the defendant testified that she knew that mishandling a baby could lead to her death, Downes said.
“Kailynn was as vulnerable as a human being can get,” he said.
The judge said no matter what sentence he handed down, Kailynn’s family will never be whole again.
Kailynn would have turned 2 on Oct. 19, her father wrote in a letter. He has missed watching her learn to walk and learn to say, “mommy and daddy.”
While Kailynn was in the hospital, her parents prayed that God would let their daughter come home.
“I really thought and believed in spite of what was being said she would come home with us,” the girl’s mother wrote. “It’s my job to protect her. The one most important thing I failed in doing so.”
She wrote of not being able to comfort her other children, who’d been removed from their home during the initial investigation.
“Our children were taken from us. We were only allowed to have supervised visits, not allowed to be left alone with them,” she wrote.
The grieving mom wrote of not wanting to let go of her daughter’s crib, clothing or blanket and gathering at the cemetery on what would have been Kailynn’s first birthday.
“Our life as we knew it has been shattered and will never be the same,” she wrote.
The trial, she said, added to her pain. The defendant’s actions “were like dumping salt on my deep, deep everlasting wounds,” she wrote.
Kailynn’s parents asked that Jarrell not be shown any leniency. The sentence for the conviction isn’t long enough, they said.
Downes acknowledged that nothing he did would erase their heartache.
“Everywhere you look in every direction in this case people are in pain,” he said.