Father's verdict sealed while legal wrangling holds up mother's trial in drowning manslaughter case

February 22, 2012

Two Jacksonville parents should soon learn their fate in their separate fights against manslaughter charges after their two children - 3 and 6 - were left at home alone and drowned in the neighbor's pool. A decision has already been made regarding the father, Markanthony O. Ibeagwa, but the judge has ordered the verdict sealed until the conclusion of his wife Jovita Ibeagwa's trial. Her trial has now been held up until this week while the court sorts out what to do about a phone call recording that is no longer available, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. With his own freedom on the line now - both are facing up to 30 years apiece on each count of aggravated manslaughter - Markanthony Ibeagwa's attorneys are pointing the finger at his wife.

Police say Jovita called her husband before she was heading to her nursing job and told him to come home and watch the kids, the newspaper reported. The husband, a nursing assistant, said he would but ended up staying at work. His Jacksonville criminal defense attorney argued in court that he wasn't the one who left the children alone - it was his wife Jovita. When the Ibeagwa's neighbor returned home, he saw a wooden ladder propped in the Ibeagwa's lawn against his fence. The two children were dead in the pool.
The hangup in Jovita's case is the telephone records of her phone call to her husband that evening that are now missing. The call was a piece of Markanthony's trial - the state played a recording of his interview with detectives when he acknowledged receiving the call, the newspaper reported. The call is a key piece of evidence in the wife's defense and would likely be a focal point of the case.

To prove aggravated manslaughter against both parents, the state must show that what they did in leaving the children showed such "careless disregard for safety" that they should be held responsible for their deaths. Does that apply here, if the wife thinks her husband is on his way and the husband assumes she's waiting with the kids until he gets home? That'll be up to the two juries that will hear two decidedly different theories.
Some evidence that could tip the case toward the state is testimony that the parents had left the children alone like this before. And while that doesn't prove the case one way or another, it could hurt any empathy from the jury that this was a one-time miscommunication that ended tragically.

Our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has represented hundreds of people charged with serious felonies, including manslaughter. If you or a loved one needs a manslaughter attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.