A Boaz woman has pleaded guilty to a charge of felony murder in the 2006 death of her five-year-old son. Shalinda Kalika Glass, 31, was originally charged with capital murder in her son Geontae Glass' death, but after reviewing the case and considering testimony from Glass' nine-year-old daughter, prosecution asked that her charge be reduced from capital to felony murder.
Glass' boyfriend at the time of her son's death, Kevin Andre Towles, was also charged with capital murder in Geontae's death and has been sentenced to death for the crime.
The investigation began on Dec. 4, 2006 when Glass called 911 from an Albertville gas station, saying her car had been stolen while her son was still inside. A multi-county search was launched in an effort to find Geontae. When deputies searched Towles' home on Shady Grove in Boaz, they found Geontae's body in the trunk of the car that was reported stolen.
"An autopsy revealed that Geontae died due to injuries that resulted from a horrific beating that caused severe internal injuries to the child's body," a release from the Etowah County District Attorney's Office stated.
Towles was tried in October 2009 and found guilty of capital murder. The jury unanimously recommended the death penalty for Towles. Judge Allen Millican sentenced Towles to death on Dec. 18, 2009 for the murder of Geontae Glass.
Etowah County D.A. Jimmie Harp says he and his prosecution team originally believed a charge of capital murder was appropriate for both Towles and Glass, but testimony from Glass' daughter that came out in Towles' trial led them to ask for a reduced sentence for Glass.
"During the course of Towles' trial, the victim's nine-year-old sister, a key witness for the State, testified that Shalinda Glass was asleep and wouldn't have known that Towles took Geontae outside and beat him with a stick. The sister testified that she never saw her brother walk or talk again after being taken outside by Towles," according to a statement issued by the D.A.'s office.
"In order to prove the crime of capital murder, the State has to be able to prove that a person had the specific intent to cause the death of another," Harp said.
"Here, although there was evidence that Glass failed to provide appropriate care for the victim, failed to seek the medical attention that could have saved his life, and helped to cover up the crime after the fact, there is no evidence that she was even aware that the crime was committed until after it was discovered that Geontae had died. The sister's testimony was the only piece of evidence showing exactly when the beating took place, and that testimony indicated that Shalinda Glass was asleep at the time. She is guilty of aggravated child abuse by failing to protect her child, and that abuse ultimately resulted in the death of Geontae Glass at the hands of Towles. This makes her guilty of felony murder, but not capital murder," Harp continued.
After Towles had been tried and convicted of Geontae's murder, prosecutors concluded that the "level of intent and participation in the crime was not the same for Glass as it had been for Towles," according to Harp. The prosecution also took into account the effect that a second trial would have against the Geontae's nine-year-old sister.
"Everyone involved was incredibly moved by Geontae's sister; her bravery in testifying, her love for her brother, and the difficulties she faces in the future because of what happened to her brother, because of the actions of her own mother," said Harp. "At times like this, we believe that it is necessary to temper justice with a degree of compassion for this little girl. She should not be forced through another trial."
Defense attorneys and the D.A.'s office negotiated to have Glass' charge changed to felony murder. When Judge Millican accepted the felony murder plea, he addressed Glass, saying, "There are some things in life that you never get over. The autopsy report, and the photographs of the victim in this case will be burned into my mind forever, and I will always be haunted by the facts of this case. However, my heart was touched by [your daughter]." Millican told Glass that the future and well-being of her daughter and the fact that her responsibility in the crime was not the same as Towles' were the reasons he allowed the felony murder plea rather than capital murder.
Glass has been sentenced to life in prison. She remained in jail without bond pending a trial in the case. As part of the plea agreement, she waived her rights to appeal her conviction.
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