Emily Usnick, the former Lake area mother found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in her infant's 2009 death and sentenced to five years imprisonment, has pled guilty to additional charges stemming from the incident, effectively ending the highly publicized criminal case that began more than eight years ago.
Reporter's Note: Additional information has been included from a press release issued by Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey on Friday, July 21, 2017.
Emily Usnick, the former Lake area mother found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in her infant’s 2009 death and sentenced to five years imprisonment, has pled guilty to additional charges stemming from the incident, effectively ending the highly publicized criminal case that began more than eight years ago.
On July 14, 2017, Senior Judge John O’Malley sentenced Usnick, 42, to five years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, and three days later the former St. Elizabeth resident pled guilty to two remaining charges — second degree endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of a controlled substance except 35-grams or less of marijuana, a Class C, felony.
A charge of manufacturing a controlled substance was dismissed by the state in exchange for cooperation in a negotiated plea bargain regarding the remaining chages.
O’Malley — who was assigned to the case in August of 2016 when it was transferred from Miller County to Warrensburg — sentenced Usnick to an additional five years for the possession charge to be served concurrently with the manslaughter conviction and 90 days in the Miller County jail with credit for time served for the endangering charge.
Usnick’s total sentence of five years began on July 14 when she was taken into custody following the first of two sentencing hearings in which family members spoke in support of the now remarried mother of four.
Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Winfrey requested the maximum sentence of seven years for the involuntary manslaughter guilty verdict handed down by a Johnson County jury in May following an emotional three-day trial in which Usnick took the stand to tell her version of what happened on February 3, 2009.
Missouri Public Defense Attorney Jason Emmons requested parole for Usnick who had previously waived jury sentencing prior to the trial and elected for the judge’s discretion.
On that night, investigators with the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force raided the rural residence and discovered drugs and a non-operation manufacturing lab along a deceased, decomposing female infant wrapped in a trash bag inside of a car which was registered to Usnick and parked inside the garage.
She was found guilty of "recklessly" causing the death of her newborn, Hannah Usnick, specifically by failing to secure medical care after giving birth and placing the infant in a plastic container before placing it inside the trunk of the vehicle.
Usnick, who was 33 at the time of the arrest, was charged with possession and attempting to manufacture along with five other residents staying at the house.
She was later charged with murder and abandonment of a corpse for the deceased infant which was discovered to have been delivered by Usnick sometime between January and February of 2009.
The abandonment of a corpse charge was later thrown out by Judge Stan Moore on grounds that the statute of limitations had passed and he also sustained a motion to sever the drug charges pending outcome of the murder and manslaughter trial.
During the sentencing hearing on July 14, several witness testimonies and written statements were entered as evidence in support of Usnick from relatives and a case worker.
“To my best recollection, Ms. Usnick passed all of her drug test that I requested of her,” a case worker with Children’s Division Department of Social Services wrote. “Ms. Usnick worked her Written Service Agreement and participated in meetings, court, rehab, counseling, and visits with her child and anything else I asked of her.”
Anthony Kolks, 21, of Mexico, one of Usnick’s children spoke in support at the hearing and a written statement was offered into the record.
“My mom has changed over the last 8 1/2 years for someone going through what can only be described as an emotional nightmare she is the positive, loving, unselfish person I’ve ever known,” according to the court document. “I almost lost my mom once to an addiction. I don’t want to loose her all over again.”
According to the court document, Usnick stated she started using methamphetamine at the age of 30 and “was actively using during the time the current offense was committed.” She told officers she had went to impatient treatment at Hannibal Council.
Usnick is currently married to Zachary Smith and now goes by Emily Smith. She has one child with Smith and and three other children with different fathers and currently resides in Rush Hill, according to the Sentencing Assessment Report used by the judge to determine the punishment.
“A home visit was conducted on 06/09/17, and this officer met with Usnick at that time. This officer has accepted the home plan at this time,” according to the SAR document. “Usnick is currently unemployed but is receiving Social Security Disability at this time.”
Winfrey thanked the various law enforcement agencies and Missouri Attorney General Assistant Prosecutor, Susan Boresi, who assisted in the prosecution of the case.
"The facts of this case represent two of our state's biggest challenges -- 1) the plague of methamphetamine abuse and 2) crimes against children. In the murder trial of this matter, I asked the jury to deliver Baby Usnick justice. In a nation of laws like ours, justice means a jury of her fellow citizens deliberating on the facts of her death," Winfrey said in a press release issued Friday afternoon.
"Although we did not win the results we hoped for at trial I respect the jury's decision and am grateful for their time and attention. My office will continue to fight illegal drugs in our community and defend children."