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O'Neill Man Sentenced In District Court On Felony Child Abuse

Nov 30, 2022 (0)

John Applegarth

John Applegarth, 23, of O'Neill, appeared in Holt County District Court on Monday, Nov. 21 on a charge of attempted child abuse resulting in death, a Class II felony. The Honorable Judge Mark Kozisek presided.

According to court documents, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 at about 6:40 a.m. the O'Neill Police Department responded to an emergency call of an unresponsive child at a residence in O'Neill. When they arrived, the child's mother was performing CPR.

The 13-month-old child was transported to Avera St. Anthony's Hospital in O'Neill and then flown to Children's Hospital in Omaha where he was pronounced dead at 1:53 p.m. on Thursday, July 8.

An autopsy was conducted which concluded the cause of death was head trauma consistent with child abuse from being shaken or propelled into an object or both.

Police officers interviewed the child's mother who stated that the child was fine on Monday, July 5, except he was teething and was a little cranky. She also believed he might be coming down with an ear infection and planned to take him to the doctor on Tuesday.

The mother was called into work on Monday and the child was left in the care of Applegarth. When the mother arrived home between shifts Applegarth told her that the child had fallen out of his crib, the mother assessed the child at this time and thought he was fine, but figured she would mention it at the doctor's appointment the next day.

After the last shift, the child was in bed when the mother arrived home, and although she peeked in at him, she did not check any further at that time.

The next morning Applegarth woke her up saying something was wrong as the child had been crying and he picked him up and he began convulsing. He went limp as he was handed to the mother and then emergency services were called.

Upon admission, several bruises were noticed to both sides of the child's head, which pictures from the mother's phone on July 5th prove were not there prior to his care by Applegarth. Applegarth was then arrested.

In court this week Applegarth was sentenced to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for 30-40 years with credit given for 463 days served prior to sentencing. In addition he was ordered to pay $147 in court costs and to provide a DNA sample pursuant to the DNA Identification Information Act and pay all costs associated with the collection. 

According to the Good Time law, he must serve 15 years before being eligible for parole.

“Cases like this, involving the tragic death of an infant are difficult for all those involved. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the O'Neill Police Department, especially Chief Matt Otte and Investigator Mike Ross, as well as the Nebraska Attorney General's office for their assistance in this matter. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victim's family,” said County Attorney Brent Kelly.

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