02/17/09 — Mother will face prison in baby's death

View Archive

Mother will face prison in baby's death

By Staff Reports
Published in News on February 17, 2009 1:46 PM

Full Size

Cynthia Chestnutt

KENANSVILLE -- A Duplin County woman pleaded guilty Monday in Duplin County Superior Court to second-degree murder and felony child abuse in the death of her 21-month-old daughter.

Cynthia Chestnutt was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 19 1/2 years in prison.

Janae Moore was found not breathing and unresponsive on Nov. 17, 2007, at her home in Magnolia when Duplin Emergency Services and the Magnolia Fire Department responded to a call at the home at 244 Gold Pond Road.

The child was taken to Duplin General Hospital and then air-lifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital. She died the following day.

After an investigation led by Detective Andrew Han-chey of the Duplin County Sheriff's Office, it was determined that the child's injuries were consistent with having been shaken.

Upon interrogation, Ms. Chestnutt admitted to law enforcement officers that she had been playing with the child and threw her on a couch and that she had bounced off onto the floor.

According to District Attorney Dewey Hudson, Detective Hanchey and Sheriff's Capt. Stanley Jones later met with Assistant District Attorney Ernie Lee, who had spoken with Dr. Joseph P. Pestaner, a pathologist at Pitt Memorial.

Pestaner determined that the child's injuries were the result of being severely shaken and being struck on the head -- conclusions that were inconsistent with Ms. Chestnutt's description of what happened.

She was subsequently charged with an open count of murder and felony child abuse.

Ms. Chestnutt was represented in court by Tonya Turner of Burgaw. Lee and Assistant District Attorney Robert Roupe prosecuted the case. Presiding over the trial was Judge Allen Cobb Jr. of Wilmington.