After three days of deliberation, a Las Vegas jury on Tuesday convicted Stanley and Colleen Rimer of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jason Rimer, their 4-year-old disabled son who was left in an SUV for at least 17 hours.
Both also were found guilty of child abuse and neglect. Stanley Rimer was found guilty on six counts, Colleen Rimer on three counts.
All the counts are probationable offenses, but Stanley Rimer would face two to 54 years in prison, and Colleen Rimer would face two to 36 years in prison.
The Rimers had been charged with second-degree murder, which would have carried a sentence of 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
After the verdict, Stanley Rimer, 54, was remanded to custody on $500,000 bail and Colleen Rimer, 42, was held on $250,000 bail pending sentencing by Judge Douglas Herndon on May 31.
Jason was left in the vehicle about 2 p.m. on June 8, 2008, after returning home from church with his mother and several siblings.
The boy suffered from myotonic dystrophy, a genetic muscular disorder that crippled his body and mind, and he was unable to unlock car doors.
Jason died from heat stress, which could have taken three to five hours in the estimated 130 degree temperature in the car.
Stanley Rimer maintained that he was unaware that Jason had been locked in the sport utility vehicle. He said he was ill that day and left church before his family, spending the rest of the day in his bedroom.
Colleen Rimer told Las Vegas police that she was solely responsible for the disabled boy.
PATTERN OF NEGLECT ALLEGED
Prosecutors argued that both parents exhibited a pattern of neglect that led to an inevitable tragedy.
Four Rimer children testified during the two-week trial that the family home was filthy and cluttered, the children had a constant lice infestation, and their father hit them with boat oars as punishment.
Defense attorneys argued that corporal punishment was not illegal and that Stanley Rimer never excessively used it. They also said the parents did the best they could to keep their home in working order.
Stanley Rimer appeared to give little reaction as the verdict was read, though his wife, who wept throughout the trial, shed tears before, during and after the verdict.
Crystal Davis, the only daughter among the Rimers' eight children, said she felt overwhelmed after hearing the jury's decision.
"I figured they were going to be convicted of something, but I knew it wasn't going to be second-degree murder because they didn't murder my brother," she said.
Davis, 20, testified during the trial. She said she forgave "my mother and my father for everything they have ever done wrong."
Davis ardently defended her mother and wished the jury had shown more sympathy toward her.
"My mother didn't deserve this. My mom is sick," she said.
She added that Colleen Rimer also suffers from myotonic dystrophy and had bronchitis the day Jason was left in the vehicle.
"My dad says he was sick and he didn't know what was going on, and I believe him," Davis said, "I hope he (the judge) gives them both probation."
JURY STRUGGLED WITH VERDICT
Mike Flanagan, the only juror who would comment after the verdict, said the jury struggled between a verdict of involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder for the parents.
"What they did was so bad, so despicable," Flanagan said.
But, he said, he personally felt prosecutors were overreaching with a second-degree murder charge.
Prosecutor Mark DiGiacomo said he understood the jury's decision.
"I think it's difficult for any jury to convict somebody of murder in a situation where there isn't evidence necessarily of malice towards the victim specifically, as opposed to the abject failure of their responsibilities as a parent," DiGiacomo said.
Deputy Public Defender Kevin Leik, who along with Deputy Public Defender Tim O'Brien represented Stanley Rimer, said his client shouldn't have been charged with murder.
"Charging this as a second-degree murder was a jump in the law," Leik said. He added that several issues would be appealed, including the compounding of allegations in the child abuse and neglect charges.
Attorney Michael Sanft, who represented Colleen Rimer, said the verdict "was one that puts things in the proper perspective" for what happened in the Rimer home.
Throughout the trial, Sanft focused on defending his client, while Stanley Rimer's attorneys shifted blame in Jason's death to Colleen Rimer.
After the verdict, while asking the judge to let Colleen Rimer remain on house arrest, Sanft unleashed a verbal barrage at Stanley Rimer, implicating him in decades of physical and mental abuse of his family.
The attorney said Colleen Rimer's crime was not doing anything about it and that she doesn't pose a flight risk or danger to the community.
ATTORNEYS TO SEEK PROBATION
Sanft, along with Stanley Rimer's attorneys, said they will ask Herndon to sentence their clients to probation.
DiGiacomo said that while Colleen Rimer needs to spend time in prison, her term shouldn't be as long as her husband's.
The prosecutor said he plans to ask the judge for "Stan Rimer to spend every hour, day, minute, second of every possible year in prison for the rest of his life."
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.