Child fentanyl death case against mother heads to trial

April 10, 2023

Jodi Neino

Child fentanyl death case against mother heads to trial

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — The criminal case against a 30-year-old Grant Township woman charged with manslaughter and child abuse in connection to the July 1, 2022 fentanyl death of her 4-year-old son is headed to trial in 51st Circuit Court.

Jodi Michelle Neino, who is lodged in the Oceana County Jail, appeared in court Monday morning, April 10, with her court-appointed attorney Julie Springstead Waltz for a pretrial hearing.

Neino is charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in connection to Eli Jude Schutter’s death. The boy’s father, Jacob Scott Schutter, pleaded “no contest” to involuntary manslaughter, Feb. 13, and is scheduled for sentencing Monday, April 17, at 10:30 a.m. Schutter is facing a term of 50 months to 15 years in prison. A charge of second-degree child abuse abuse was dismissed. 

Forensic pathologist Dr. Jared Brooks testified at preliminary examinations for both defendants in 79th District Court that Eli’s cause of death was “the toxic effects of para-fluorofentanyl and fentanyl.”

“The evidence shows he died of fentanyl poisoning,” said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon during Neino’s preliminary exam last November, referring to the drugs in the couple’s home as like having a “loaded gun” in the house.

The police report that details the investigation of Eli’s death reveals “uninhabitable” living conditions in the single-wide trailer where the little boy, his six siblings — including an infant — and their parents lived on Clay Road near Rothbury. 

Jacob Schutter at his most recent court hearing last February.

“The house was disgusting,” said Oceana County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Brown, one of the witnesses who testified last fall.

The children have since been removed from the couple’s home by Child Protective Services. Testimony detailed investigators finding drugs and drug paraphernalia throughout the home.

Deputy Brown described during his testimony the deplorable living conditions in the trailer. He said the ceiling was caving in above bunk beds in one of the bedrooms, and there were no blankets on the beds. The other bedroom also had bunk beds, which were so full of stuff they couldn’t be used. He said the floors were covered with debris and food particles. The bath tub was full of items and could not be used.

A large pile of garbage was in the middle of the kitchen, and the kitchen sink was full of moldy dishes. 

Brown went into the master bedroom that was “floor-to-ceiling full of clothing and junk.” He described how difficult it was to wake Neino who was asleep in the master bedroom amidst all the chaos of sirens from emergency vehicles at the scene.

Prosecutor Bizon offered Neino a plea agreement Monday, which would have included her pleading “no contest” to involuntary manslaughter and dismissing the child abuse charge. Her minimum term would have been within 19-38 months. 

In response, Springstead Waltz said, “We are asking for the matter to be set for trial.”

“Her guidelines on involuntary manslaughter are expected to be 19-38 months,” said Bizon. “MCL 769.34 states there is a presumption she is supposed to be sentenced to the minimum sentence within her guidelines.” Neino’s guidelines are lower than Schutter’s because he has a juvenile record and she has no criminal record.

A trial date was not set, but a pretrial conference is scheduled for June 26.

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