Almost one week after Cody Key was handed a 45 year prison term for the beating death of 23 month old Colten Alexander May, the child’s mother appeared for sentencing today (Wednesday) in DeKalb County Criminal Court.
20 year old Jessica May stood before Judge Gary McKenzie and entered a plea to attempted aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony, and received an eight year sentence as a range I mitigated offender to serve at least 20% before parole eligibility. However she may already be near qualifying for early release after having served 568 days since her arrest on May 19, 2015. If she is released early, May would be supervised for the remainder of the eight year term.
During May’s brief court appearance today, District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway presented the case against her to Judge McKenzie. He was joined in the courtroom by Assistant D.A. Greg Strong. May was represented by Daniel Barnes of Sparta, her court appointed attorney. Family members were also present for the hearing.
“That was a negotiated plea we came to in negotiating with her attorney. We feel good about it. I will say that Jessica May was not involved in the killing of her child, Colten May. She was not an actor in that homicide. We did charge her with neglect because of a history of abuse of the child in which she either turned a blind eye to or did nothing about it. The abuser of the child was Cody Key and he was convicted of second degree murder last week. But Jessica May did nothing to prevent the abuse that was inflicted on the child by Cody Key and she turned a blind eye to it over a period of time. In plain language that is the gist of the circumstances as to why she was charged with neglect,” D.A. Dunaway told WJLE after the hearing.
“I will say that she did assist in the prosecution of Cody Key. She accepted responsibility for her actions early and did assist the prosecution in making the case against Cody Key and had we tried Cody Key she was going to be a witness against him in that trial so that is really kind of the nature of why we agreed to a mitigated sentence,” added D.A. Dunaway.
“I hope you burn in hell”, said Jennifer Pitt, Colten’s paternal grandmother, in addressing May during the plea hearing today (Wednesday).
Pitt, who was allowed by the judge to speak after the plea was announced, walked up next to where May was seated in the courthouse. Pitt held a picture of Colten, looked directly at May, and said “I hope you see this when you go to sleep at night and for the rest of your life. You had no right. You could have stopped it but you didn’t. I hope you burn in hell,” said Pitt.
May and her fiancé at the time, 25 year old Cody Key were indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 in Colten’s death. Key was charged with first degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse. May was indicted for aggravated child neglect, a Class A felony, and had she been convicted of that offense, May could have served from 15-60 years, which is the range of punishment for that crime.
The couple brought the child to the emergency room of Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital on Sunday morning, May 17, 2015 but he was already dead. It was determined that the child had suffered internal and other physical injuries that resulted in his death. Law enforcement officers concluded that Key had severely beaten the child and that May knew the abuse was taking place.
The indictment against May alleged that "between the 17th day of May, 2014 and the 17th day of May, 2015 in DeKalb County, Jessica May did unlawfully, knowingly, and other than by accidental means, neglect the child so as to adversely affect the health and welfare of the child, thereby committing the offense of aggravated child neglect".
May, who was pregnant again at the time of her arrest, was later transferred to the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction due to her special needs. Since giving birth, she has been incarcerated in the Warren County Jail. Her child was placed in the custody of the Department of Children Services and is reportedly now with May’s family members.
Last Thursday, December 1st, Key entered a plea in Putnam County Criminal Court to second degree murder and received a sentence of 45 years to be served at 100%.He will receive jail credit of 563 days for time served from May 19, 2015 to December 1, 2016.
After the plea today (Wednesday), May was returned to the Warren County Jail.