Woman pleads guilty in death of son whose body was never found

A 22-year-old woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill Monday to voluntary manslaughter in the death of her infant son, though authorities never found the child’s body.

Joelle Briana Gaines is expected to face eight to 20 years in prison at a December sentencing.

Prosecutors said she killed Marvell Patterson at her 1600 East Harris Ave. apartment in early April 2014, just before his first birthday, wrapped the boy’s body in plastic and tossed the body into a dumpster.

Neighbors and family members told authorities Gaines took a bus to Georgia after they had not seen the boy with her.

Gaines initially told her mother and a neighbor the boy drowned in a bathtub April 6, 2014, and she took his body to a dumpster the next day.

But on April 25, 2014, six days after Marvell would have turned 1, Gaines told detectives she was with the boy when “suddenly, she snapped … Marvell was refusing to sit up, and was not behaving like a normal 1-year-old,” according to court papers.

Gaines “began to feel as though Marvell was not her baby and she became very angry,” prosecutors wrote.

She admitted to hitting the boy “four or five times, in his face, stomach and legs” and said she panicked after she noticed Marvell’s body was cold and lifeless.

Detectives repeatedly tried searching a landfill where the body would have been dumped, but by that time more than 135,000 tons of garbage had filled the grid.

“Due to the enormous amount of trash deposited daily, it would be nearly impossible to recover a small infant body from the landfill after the body had been sitting in the landfill for nearly a month,” according to prosecutors.

Special Public Defender Jeremy Storms said Gaines suffers from “borderline intellectual disability.”

According to state law, she would be separated from the prison’s general population until doctors determined she no longer required acute mental health care, and she would continue to receive treatment throughout her sentence.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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