Woman gets 20 to 50 years for killing 7-month-old foster son

The woman convicted of first-degree murder for causing a fatal head injury to her 7-month-old foster son in 2006 was sentenced to 20 to 50 years in prison Thursday.

Melanie Ochs, 42, was found guilty by a jury in October in the death of Baby Boy Charles. The baby suffered a skull fracture and swelling of the brain. Doctors who treated him believed there was a high likelihood that the injuries were caused by nonaccidental trauma.

Ochs, who testified in her own defense, denied intentionally hurting the baby. She also admitted that she initially lied to emergency medical workers and physicians about how the injury occurred. During the trial, Ochs testified that the baby fell from the top of a washing machine to the floor, a distance of 3 feet.

Authorities argued that the injuries suffered by Baby Boy Charles could not have been caused by the fall Ochs described.

District Judge Michael Villani handed down the sentence after a passionate speech by prosecutor Vicki Monroe, who called for a harsher sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

A sentencing recommendation by the Department of Parole and Probation suggested a term of 20 to 50 years in prison.

"It is ludicrous to say 20 to 50 years is sufficient for murdering a 7-month-old child," Monroe said. "Children are defenseless. They can't stop the abuse. They can't tell people the abuse is going on. I think it would be an insult to the life of this child."

Monroe called on Villani to impose the life sentence, so that if Ochs was ever granted parole, a violation might land her in jail for the rest of her life.

Before sentencing, Villani said he took into consideration that Ochs had no prior criminal record and had cared for other foster children in the past.

"Ms. Ochs, it's just amazing to the court, and I'm sure to the jury, why you lied to the paramedics and lied to the emergency room doctor.

"I think you were overwhelmed and it got the best of you. And now we have a dead baby. And nothing I do or you say is going to bring this child back," he said.

Ochs declined to speak at the sentencing. Her attorney, Robert Langford, said her silence was in consideration of future litigation.

After the hearing, Langford said it was an "appropriate sentence given the verdict." But, said he still plans on appealing the jury's verdict, which he maintained was inappropriate for this case. He has called the death a tragic accident.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.