DOVER – On the day her trial was originally scheduled to begin, a 23-year-old Leipsic woman instead pleaded guilty to six felony counts in connection with the stabbing death of her father early this year.
Jennifer L. Barnes also agreed Monday morning to cooperate with prosecutors and testify in the upcoming trial of Gerard T. Schweiger, the 24-year-old man and father of her child accused of murdering Tony Mozick Sr. during a Jan. 5 altercation in Leipsic.
Shackled at the ankles and wearing orange Department of Correction clothing, Ms. Barnes pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, hindering prosecution, second-degree conspiracy, breach of release, abuse of a corpse, and making a false statement to a law enforcement officer.
As a result, Ms. Barnes is facing up to 12 years imprisonment when she’s sentenced on Aug. 14 in the Kent County Courthouse. She remains incarcerated at Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle.
However, a state prosecutor said a lesser sentence is likely. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered by Judge William L. Witham to research Ms. Barnes’s background and circumstances regarding the homicide.
“The PSI will help determine sentencing,” Deputy Attorney General Dennis Kelleher said. “These are not the type offenses people generally get a whole lot of time for.”
The state prosecutor did not downplay the severity of Ms. Barnes role in the stabbing death, either.
“It’s a serious matter,” Mr. Kelleher said. “She took a plea that reflects that … We’re pleased with the outcome in that the end result today would have been the same as if she went to trial and was convicted on all six felonies.”
Ms. Barnes signed a plea agreement and truth in sentencing forms on Monday morning, though the state and defense counsel Adam D. Windett of Dover had been in negotiations for several days beforehand.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Windett released the following statement in response to media questions regarding the guilty pleas:
“It's hard to describe the level of remorse that Ms. Barnes is experiencing. She is deeply saddened by the loss of her father and is deeply regretful for her actions after his death.
“Ms. Barnes has taken responsibility for her actions from the outset of this case and her first contact with law enforcement. There were no hesitations on her part in accepting a plea today. She accepted full responsibility for her role in this crime by pleading guilty to all of the charged felonies.
“I expect Ms. Barnes to speak on her own behalf at sentencing and more fully express her heartfelt sadness, guilt, and remorse for her actions.”
Mr. Windett said he could comment further following sentencing.
Besides the Level V incarceration, fines are also possible, Judge Witham noted. The judge urged Ms. Barnes to cooperate and provide information during the PSI to help the court determine her ultimate penalty.
Dates for the Schweiger trial have not been set; last week, Kent County Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young was assigned to officiate.
Mr. Schweiger is charged with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, in addition to the same six felony counts that Ms. Barnes pleaded guilty to.
On Monday, the state said it would not pursue four endangering the welfare of a child misdemeanors originally brought against Ms. Barnes. Her four children – including one she shares with Mr. Schweiger - were at the scene when the homicide occurred, authorities said.
According to allegations, Mr. Schweiger stabbed Mr. Mozick to death at his unit block residence on West Street, and then conspired with Ms. Barnes to wrap the victim’s corpse in plastic, place it in a 55-gallon container and throw it in the Leipsic River on Jan. 6.
The corpse was found submerged under the Leipsic River Bridge by a trapper on Feb. 20.