Man, 21, pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in daughter's death

WOOSTER, Ohio (AP) - Before jurors were seated for the second day of his trial, a tearful Mark Darling pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of his 14-week-old daughter.
Darling, 21, told Wayne County Common Pleas Judge Robert J. Brown he agreed to the plea agreement reached Tuesday.
"When looking at a murder conviction, you are looking at 15 years to life. You have to consider" a reduced charge, said Darling's attorney, John E. Johnson Jr., in explaining the midtrial change of heart.
However, until Tuesday morning, Darling had resisted a plea bargain in the death of his daughter, Taylor Marie. Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
The Apple Creek father was indicted for the murder of Taylor Marie after doctors ruled that she was a victim of shaken baby syndrome.
She was barely breathing and appeared lifeless when she first was taken to Wooster Community Hospital last November.
She was later transferred to Akron Children's Hospital, where doctors determined that she suffered from severe brain and spinal cord injuries.
Taylor Marie was disconnected from life support on Dec. 12. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor John Williams said Tuesday he was satisfied with Darling's plea to involuntary manslaughter.
Williams said that he would have had to prove that Taylor Marie's death was an act of violence in order to prove murder.
Darling had maintained that he struck Taylor Marie on her back as he was bathing her because she choked.
Johnson said Tuesday that Darling "is devastated by the loss of his daughter."
Brown ordered a presentence investigation and a psychological evaluation for Darling. He will be sentenced after the reports are completed. Darling is free from the Wayne County Jail on a $25,000 bond. He is living with his parents in Medina County.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)