Mother Could Face Capital Charge In Daughter's Death

WARREN, Ohio (AP) - A woman who told police she wanted to send her daughter to a "better place" could face the death penalty in her daughter's hit-and-run death, Weathersfield police said.

Sherry Marie Delker, 27, is charged with aggravated murder in the death of her only daughter, 6-year-old Samantha Mae Martin.

Delker, of Austintown, is being held without bond in the Trumbull County Jail.

A tearful Delker (pictured, above) pleaded innocent Saturday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

The first-grader died Friday at St. Elizabeth Health Center of injuries suffered when she was struck by a car that morning in Weathersfield Township. An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper said a tire ran over the girl's chest and crushed her to death.

A grand jury will decide whether this qualifies as a capital case because it involves an accusation that Delker purposely killed a child under 13. Common Pleas Judge John Stuard will conduct a pretrial hearing April 8.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said in an affidavit filed Saturday that Delker staged the accident near the Weathersfield police department in northeast Ohio, then took her daughter to an ambulatory center that usually treats less serious patients.

Delker became a suspect when Weathersfield Police Chief Joe Consiglio and two detectives found inconsistencies in her account.

Watkins' affidavit gave the following account: Delker first told police a blue truck or minivan ran over her daughter. But she later confessed to Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Vickie Casey that she killed her daughter. Delker said she was trying to stop people who were "trying to take her baby away" and trying "to stop the abuse."

An autopsy showed the girl had been sexually assaulted, prompting a separate investigation.

Delker later told Sheriff's Detective Latrese Morgan that she stopped at a church to "ask for forgiveness for sending her daughter to a better place."

The Warren Tribune Chronicle obtained the affidavit after a judge refused to seal it.

Highway Patrol troopers from Columbus matched a tire pattern on Delker's car with a pattern found on Samantha's clothing, Consiglio said.

Delker's attorney, Anthony Consoldane, said she is a divorced, single mother who receives disability payments after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Consiglio said Delker and her daughter lived with Delker's father in an apartment-like wing of his home in Austintown, about five miles outside Youngstown.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)