A 76-year-old Wisconsin woman pleaded no contest on Monday to a murder charge in the 1957 death of her infant daughter under a plea deal with prosecutors who recommended she be sentenced to 45 days in jail.
By pleading no contest, Ruby Klokow of Sheboygan admitted to having recklessly but unintentionally caused the death of her daughter Jeaneen, Sheboygan County District Attorney Joe DeCecco said.
Klokow was charged in 2011 with second-degree murder under a 1957 statute, which is similar to first-degree reckless homicide under current law, DeCecco said. It was the only charge from 1957 that fit the facts and did not have a statute of limitations, he said.
Klokow had told police in 1957 that Jeaneen, who was less than a year old, had fallen off a sofa but family members suspected otherwise, he said. Klokow's son James, who was about 2 years old at the time of his sister's death, went to police with his suspicions in 2008.
After the case was reopened, Klokow admitted that she had been frustrated and angry at the time. Both James and Jeaneen were crying and she had picked the girl up and threw her toward the sofa, but she bounced off and struck the floor, he said.
A pathologist also determined that Jeaneen's injuries could not have been caused merely by falling off a couch, DeCecco said.
"The crime happened 56 years ago ... she is in ill-health and our main aim was to help the son be vindicated. He had indicated that he had been blamed for the death of his sister," DeCecco said.
Klokow entered the plea on Monday in an appearance before Sheboygan County Judge Angela Sutkiewicz, according to court records. Sentencing has been set for April 15. Sutkiewicz does not have to go along with the prosecution's recommendation for a 45-day sentence.
While the plea deal calls for a jail sentence, Klokow most likely would serve that time at home on electronic monitoring, DeCecco said. The agreement also calls for 10 years probation.
"She did acknowledge that she has felt guilty all of these years," Klokow's attorney, Kirk Obear, told reporters in an interview posted on the Sheboygan Press website after the plea.
"She has felt remorseful, she has felt responsible for her daughter's death and that all came out," Obear said.
(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Gary Hill and Bill Trott)