Release hearing scheduled for woman charged after infant’s death

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Debra Jones

Hood River County Circuit Court has scheduled a release hearing for one of the women charged after a baby died at the illegally operated Mama Shell’s Daycare this last May.

Debra L. Jones, 61, Hood River, is scheduled to appear before Judge John Olson on Dec. 20, a date “far enough out” for her attorney to finish settlement talks with the state.

The decision to schedule a release hearing came at the end of Jones’ Nov. 1 plea hearing, where she appeared before Judge John Wolf via phone from Umatilla County Jail. Also present in the courtroom were Assistant District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen, prosecuting on behalf of the State of Oregon, and Jones’ attorney.

Jones was transferred from NORCOR’s Adult Corrections Facility in The Dalles to Umatilla County Jail prior to her hearing, where she is currently being held as a courtesy because the NORCOR facility does not have room to keep Jones and her two co-defendants, Rochelle Jones, 51, and Donna Pilcher, 62, both of Hood River, appropriately separated, said NORCOR’s corrections clerk, Rebeccah Beitl.

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Rochelle Jones

Each of the three women face five counts of operating an unlicensed childcare agency, a misdemeanor, and three felony charges: Second degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Debra Jones is still a NORCOR inmate and will have to attend her court hearings in Hood River, she said.

Before Hood River Circuit Court initiated the phone call with Umatilla, Victim’s Assistance Director Gloria Needham said that the victim’s family had requested to be present for this hearing, but was stuck out at the parking meter, and requested that the court wait a few minutes while they made their way to the courthouse.

However, Judge Wolf said he was unable to accommodate the request since the court had a strict 11 a.m. phone appointment with Umatilla, and he said he was worried the court would lose the defendant if they waited too long.

The call was initiated a few minutes after 11 a.m., but there was some apparent confusion with the holding prison and the representative who answered the phone did not seem to have record of the appointment. The court was put on hold for approximately five minutes while Jones was located.

The victim’s family did not make it to the courtroom before Jones’ hearing concluded, so Wolf said he would issue a formal explanation to the family.

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Donna Pilcher

Debra Jones was the last of the three co-defendants to appear in Hood River County Circuit Court, as Rochelle Jones had her plea hearing on Oct. 29, also before Judge Wolf. Her attorney requested a 30-day continuance of the plea hearing.

“I’ve recently hired an investigator,” he said, adding that “(this is) a valid Measure 11 case, so we’ll need to reschedule in any event.”

Measure 11 requires that anyone convicted under specified offenses — including second-degree manslaughter, on which all three co-defendants are charged — must serve lengthy mandatory minimum penalties, and very high bail amounts intended to keep those charged with the offenses in custody until the case is concluded.

Wolf granted the extension and Rochelle Jones’ plea hearing was rescheduled to Dec. 6 at 11 a.m. before Judge Olson.

Pilcher, the third co-defendant, is scheduled to appear before Judge Olson on Nov. 7, also at 11 a.m., for a status check.

Pilcher and Rochelle Jones are both currently being held in separate cell blocks at NORCOR.



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