The mother of a slain toddler, whose death is still unsolved, pleaded guilty to committing acts that contributed to a child needing assistance from the state, a misdemeanor, in Howard County Circuit Court on Thursday morning.
Joaquinia LaJeuness, 29, of Columbia, was sentenced to three years, with all but eleven days suspended, by Judge Richard A. Bernhardt. LaJeuness was granted time served for the eleven days, but will serve two years of supervised probation.
The charges stemmed from a November 2010 case in which LaJeuness's son, Elijah LaJeuness, was found with , according to the statement of the facts from the case.
Five months after the reported abuse, 3-year-old Elijah was found unresponsive in LaJeuness's home at the 9600 block of Basking Ridge, on April 13, 2011. His death was by asphyxia.
At the time Elijah was found with bruises in 2010, LaJeuness had agreed to a safety plan provided by Howard County Social Services to keep her former boyfriend away from the toddler, but it was discovered the boyfriend continued to live with LaJeuness after the order, according to the statement of the facts from the case.
The safety plan was , after burn marks were discovered on the top of Elijah's feet.
After the bruises were found on Elijah's face, police investigated the case and Elijah reportedly told them LaJeuness's former boyfriend had struck him, according to the statement of facts.
with second-degree child abuse, second-degree assault, contributing to acts that required assistance for a child and obstructing an investigation for her involvement in the reported 2010 abuse.
The state's attorney in the case agreed to not pursue prosecution on the other charges if LaJeuness pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor contribution charge. As part of the plea, LaJeuness must abide by any safety plan issued by social services regarding her 9-year-old daughter.
At the time of Elijah's death, only LaJeuness, her former boyfriend and daughter were inside the home, according to investigators. Howard County social services officials allowed identified as his “alleged maltreator” after the child’s mother requested it on March 21, 2011.
Since the death, Howard County Police have said LaJeuness and her former boyfriend have not cooperated in the investigation into Elijah's death. No one has been charged in the toddler's death.
Sr. assistant state's attorney Lisa Broten said she had no comment on whether the state's attorney's office was pursuing homicide charges against LaJeuness or her former boyfriend for Elijah's death.
"We urge anyone with any information [about Elijah's death] to please contact Howard County Police," said Broten outside the courtroom.