After deliberating for an hour Wednesday afternoon, a Clearfield County jury found an Allport woman guilty of third-degree murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl.
Jennifer Ann Medzie, 22, was also convicted of aggravated assault, simple assault, endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person. Most of these charges will merge when she is sentenced within 60 days.
The charges stem from an incident on Nov. 15, 2013, when 2-year-old Sophia Hoffman-Lauder became unresponsive at her Bradford Township home while in Medzie’s care.
Medzie was living with the child’s father, Cody Lauder, at the time. The child was taken by ambulance to Clearfield Hospital before being sent by helicopter to the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where she died a few days later.
In an interview after the verdict was announced, District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. said that the maximum sentence for third-degree murder is 40 years.
He stated he was very happy with the verdict in “one of the most meaningful cases I’ve ever worked on in my over 20 years as a prosecutor.” He thanked the officers for their hard work in this long investigation and the Attorney General’s Child Death Review Team for helping the case move forward.
“We were finally able to get justice for baby Sophia,” Shaw said.
During the third day of the trial, Medzie took the stand as the only defense witness. She reiterated her original story of the events of that day — as she dressed the child, she went limp, Medzie testified.
The only new information Medzie offered was that Lauder was under the influence of a drug he had allegedly snorted earlier that evening when he was driving his daughter and Medzie back from the DuBois Regional Medical Center on Nov. 14, 2013. She said he kept falling asleep at the wheel and she needed to wake him up, which she said led to him smacking her in the chest.
“I wanted to jump out (of the car) on (Interstate) 80,” Medzie testified.
She also voiced concerns for the child being with Lauder, saying she was torn between wanting to go back to her own home and being with the child.
“If I could have, I would have taken her with me,” she said.
When Shaw asked if she had hit the child, Medzie said “no” as she started to cry. He then asked if she accidentally hit her and again she said “no.”
In his closing arguments, Robert Donaldson, Medzie’s attorney, called this a “complex case” and pointed out that the child’s death certificate says the manner of death was “undetermined.”
Shaw in his closing arguments reminded the jury of a Facebook message Medzie sent to a friend that said, “I’m sick and tired of watching her. I’m going to end up hurting her or myself.”
Testimony from medical experts revealed that the child suffered bleeding and swelling in her brain from bruising in six different parts of her head.
“This child was pummeled six times” Shaw said.
Medzie claimed that nothing happened prior to the child becoming unresponsive, but the doctors said she suffered from blunt force trauma to the head. A few members of the jury started to tear up when Shaw showed them a photo of the child.
“Science shows someone killed baby Sophia,” Shaw said.