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Young mother convicted of neglect in tot's death

TAMPA — A jury found young mother Katrina Brooks guilty Tuesday of child neglect, but not manslaughter, in the drowning death of her 9-month-old son.

Brooks, 21, had faced decades in prison if convicted of the more serious charge. Now, she could receive as little as probation for punishment.

One of her supporters clapped as the not-guilty verdict was read for the aggravated manslaughter of a child charge.

Assistant Public Defender Samantha Ward kept her arm around Brooks, who was visibly upset throughout the two-day trial.

Prosecutors argued that she should be held responsible for leaving her baby, Gene Vincent Kent, with his 2-year-old sister in an overflowing bathtub Aug. 3 while Brooks chatted with her aunt in a nearby room.

Investigators said the two women were talking about where to buy marijuana. A judge didn't allow jurors to hear that detail, ruling that it was not relevant.

The aunt estimated that the two chatted for 30 to 40 minutes before Brooks found the infant lifeless in the tub.

Brooks' attorneys painted a sympathetic picture of their client to the five men and one woman on the jury, noting how she got pregnant young and was left alone with two children after their father went to prison. They argued that Brooks made a mistake, but did not commit a crime.

Brooks will be sentenced by Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente on June 27. The maximum punishment for the child neglect charge is five years in prison, but she could avoid time behind bars because she has no prior convictions.

Allowed to remain free on bail until her sentencing, Brooks and her attorneys left the courtroom without comment.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached

at cjenkins@sptimes.com or

(813) 226-3337.

Young mother convicted of neglect in tot's death 05/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 11:12am]
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