WARREN – Trumbull County District Attorney Dennis Watkins writes that “The disturbing circumstances surrounding the tragic death of 6-year-old Samantha Martin will forever be etched in our memories,” at the beginning of his letter opposing the possible parole of the girl’s killer: her mother.
Sherry Delker, now 47, pleaded guilty in 2002 to aggravated murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for running over her daughter, who later died in a nursing home. Austintown Emergency March 29, 2002. She faces her first parole hearing in about 10 days, outside her jail cell at the Marysville Reformatory for Women.
Delker, who faced the death penalty, escaped it thanks to a plea deal in which she agreed to plead guilty to the charge of aggravated murder. In his seven-page cover letter to the parole board, Watkins says the defendant took advantage of the leniency of the state’s rejection of the death penalty specification.
“In our view, it would lessen the gravity of her crime if she were now paroled at age 47 at her first parole eligibility hearing after serving just 20 years of a life sentence for aggravated murder”, said Watkins.
In addition to the cover letter, Watkins sent a package of documents including police investigation notes, videos and the defendant’s mental assessments.
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Public Defender’s Office said she does not comment on cases that come before the parole board.
The prosecutor’s package details the aftermath after young Samantha was run over around 9.30am near St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Prospect Street and State Route 46 in Mineral Ridge.
After the incident, Delker, who at the time was living on North Turner Road in Austintown, took her daughter to the urgent care center about 3 miles south of downtown Austintown. At the care centre, Delker told a Weathersfield Township detective that the child was hit by a blue pick-up truck or van with a female driver who got away.
The same detective attended the scene of the incident and found skid marks or scuff marks on the road.
Hours later, clothing was found embedded in the pavement of the westbound lane of Prospect Street, east of the church. Hair follicles and scrapes were also found that matched a body being dragged by a car.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol Crime Lab assisted in the investigation and found that the undercarriage of Delker’s black 1990 Chevrolet Lumina had fibers. The head of the crime lab, Lt. J.D. Brink, had also examined the victim’s clothing and found tread patterns. The pattern on the child’s clothing resembled the tread pattern on the front tires of Delker’s vehicle, Brink said.
At 2 p.m., an autopsy of Samantha’s body was performed at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, and the pathologist told patrol officers that the victim had been crushed to death. “Like a tire ran over his chest.” The pathologist also told authorities that the child had recently been sexually assaulted.
The detective took a statement from a witness who worked at the church. The witness had seen a young girl wearing high-heeled shoes “jump” outside a dark vehicle. Another witness who lived on Prospect Street told detectives that morning he saw a woman pull something out from under the back of a dark “GM Car” and put him in the back seat. The witness thought the object was a dog or some other animal.
At around 6 p.m., detectives questioned Delker, who admitted that her earlier story was false and that she had killed her child by intentionally hitting her with her car. The affidavit says Delker told a soldier on videotape that she killed her daughter to send her to a better place because they were “Trying to take her baby away from her” and “to stop abuse.”
Watkins said he believes no sexual abuse against Samantha occurred in Trumbull County and so far no one has been charged with such crimes in Mahoning County.
“Delker was wrongly projecting blame onto others”, Watkins said in reference to the sex charges and why she murdered her daughter. “But one thing is crystal clear, she murdered her daughter.”
After Delker was charged in April 2002 with one count of aggravated murder with the capital felony specification, Watkins said the public defender’s team of attorneys decided to challenge the state of Delker’s mind during the murder, questioning his competence and sanity.
“Three experts have been appointed to assess Delker”, said Watkins. “A total of five reports have been filed.”
On September 17, 2002, state and defense attorneys accepted the findings of the two psychologists and a psychiatrist. The late Justice John M. Stuard found, on a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was capable of understanding the nature and purpose of the proceedings against her and of assisting in her own defense. Stuard also found Delker fit to stand trial.
Two days later, Delker did not contest the amended indictment and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
“The three forensic experts agreed that Delker – although suffering from mental illness and / or personality disorders – knew the wrongfulness of his actions in relation to the murder of his daughter Samantha on March 29, 2002, and was therefore legally sane. of mind when she killed her daughter,” Watkins wrote the parole board.
Watkins told the board that Delker remains dangerous today if released, because of “his unpredictability and proven demonic outbursts, which we believe are associated with behavioral issues involving his histrionic and antisocial personality traits.”
“She is impenetrable” Watkins told this newspaper.
In closing, Watkins said: “No matter what you call it – mental illness or personality disorder or a combination of these, the outcome and the human tragedy are the same. In other words, Sherry Delker has no more children, but Ohio and America are not. Watkins said he fears a free Delker in the future driving a car – and in front of it is someone’s baby girl or baby boy.