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Pleasant Hill woman gets life sentence in baby’s death

Pleasant Hill woman gets life sentence in baby’s death
Max Londberg, The Kansas City Star
PUBLICATION: Kansas City Star, The (MO)

SECTION: crime

DATE: September 9, 2015
Family members close to the defendant met in court Sept. 8 to plead for a lenient sentence.

The relatives spoke on behalf of Pleasant Hill’s Krystal Scroggs, 30, who was being sentenced for second-degree murder and other charges.

After about an hour of tearful testimonies, Judge R. Michael Wagner sentenced Scroggs to life in prison.

She was found guilty of second-degree murder, abandonment of a corpse and endangering the welfare of a child in April for the death of her baby after she failed to seek medical attention in the hours after giving birth.

Her husband, Matthew Scroggs, faces trial in April 2016. He is charged with the same counts relating to the child, plus tampering with a vehicle.

The baby was born with enough methamphetamine in his system to kill an adult. Authorities later found the baby in a rope-handled tub filled with concrete, allegedly placed there by husband Matthew Scroggs.

“This is a court that has compassion for everybody in this room,” Wagner said before announcing the sentence. “I’m doing what I think is right under the circumstances.”

Before the sentence was given, Scroggs stood and pleaded for leniency through tears.

“I did make wrong choices. I chose to do drugs,” Scroggs said. “I never meant for anything bad to happen.”

She also spoke about missing out on her other children’s lives.

“Please don’t take me away from them forever,” she said.

During the family’s testimonies, a relative close to Scroggs, who wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, said that Scroggs has never been in trouble with the law before.

“She’s undergoing the worst punishment that anybody could give her, and that’s not being with her children,” she said.

Scroggs’ four other children, who remain in extended family custody, all had traces of meth in their system.

Cass County Prosecutor Ben Butler said the jury agreed that Scroggs’ failure to take her newborn to a hospital or call 911 was the cause of the baby’s death.

“A life was lost and four others were jeopardized,” he said, adding that the state was seeking the maximum sentence of life for Scroggs for the death of her baby.

“Life (sentence) is fair because he’s not here,” Butler said.

A minister in a nearby church, Richard Litle took to the podium to speak to Scroggs’ character. He has worked in jail ministry for 26 years but said it was just the second time he decided to speak as a witness for a defendant.

“That’s how strongly I feel about Krystal,” he said. “She has grown in strength and faith.”

He attributed Scroggs’ growth to her starting a Bible study from within her cell for other inmates in her corridor.

“I know she’s been a blessing to them,” Litle said.

Scroggs’ defense attorney, John Picerno, said he and his client have already filed a notice of appeal. He argued the state did not provide irrefutable evidence that Scroggs’ failure to seek medical attention led to her baby’s death.

He added he was disappointed with the maximum sentence.

“She was given the same sentence as someone who picks up a gun and murders somebody, and based on the facts of her case, that didn’t warrant a maximum sentence,” he said. “And we’re still convinced as a matter of law she didn’t commit murder.”