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Pleasant Hill woman is guilty of murder in the death of baby found in a tub of concrete

Pleasant Hill woman is guilty of murder in the death of baby found in a tub of concrete
MAX LONDBERG, The Kansas City Star
PUBLICATION: Kansas City Star, The (MO)

SECTION: crime

DATE: April 23, 2015
A Pleasant Hill woman was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder in the October 2013 death of her newborn baby from methamphetamine intoxication.

Authorities searching for drugs found the baby weeks later entombed in a tub of concrete in the family’s garage.

A Johnson County, Mo., jury, which heard the case after a change of venue, also convicted Krystal Scroggs, 30, of endangering the welfare of a child and abandonment of a corpse. All are felonies. Her husband is still awaiting trial on the same charges.

As Judge R. Michael Wagner read the verdict, Scroggs stood quietly with her hands clasped behind her back.

The baby died because Scroggs did not seek medical attention for him, Cass County assistant prosecutor Jamie Hunt argued during the trial. Scroggs feared authorities would learn of her drug use if she sought medical care, Hunt said.

“She knows when that baby is born, it will have methamphetamine in its system,” Hunt said during closing arguments. “Questions will be asked, tests will be run. … It was more important to her to protect her secret (drug use) than to protect her child’s life.”

Scroggs’ defense attorney, John Picerno, contended that the state did not prove that the baby would have survived had he received medical care because of the elevated levels of meth found in his system.

“You tell me how a baby is supposed to survive that,” Picerno said during his closing argument. “It’s impossible.”

Under the law, Scroggs could not be tried for the damage her drug use did to the baby while it was in her womb. But after he was born, Scroggs became legally responsible for his well-being.

Scroggs delivered the baby on the floor of her bedroom. He struggled to breathe initially, according to the prosecution. Shortly after giving birth, Scroggs fell asleep. When she later awoke, the baby had died.

Her husband, Matthew Scroggs, allegedly placed the corpse in a large, rope-handled tub along with items such as a baby bottle, pacifiers and infant formula and filled the tub with concrete. The prosecution pointed to that as evidence the couple wanted to hide the baby.

“If the defendant … had her way, nobody would have ever known (the baby) even existed,” Hunt said.

Pleasant Hill police found the tub while searching the garage for drug paraphernalia.

Diane Peterson, a forensic pathologist for the Jackson County medical examiner, found that the baby had 751 milligrams of methamphetamine in his system, which is enough to kill a non-addicted adult.

When the jury left the courtroom to begin its deliberations, Scroggs asked permission to hug her grandmother. She was allowed to do so. Scroggs thanked her grandmother for coming and told her she loved her.

The jury deliberated for about four hours.

Scroggs’ sentencing was scheduled for 10 a.m. June 15. She faces up to life in prison. Her bond was enhanced to $500,000 following the conviction.

Scroggs also is charged with four additional counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree because it was discovered that her four other children had traces of methamphetamine in their hair. A trial date for those charges has not been set.

Those children are in the custody of extended family.

Matthew Scroggs is charged with second-degree murder, five counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child, abandonment of a corpse and first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle. His trial is set for June 1.