Father in child fentanyl death case sentenced to prison

April 17, 2023

Jacob Schutter

Father in child fentanyl death case sentenced to prison

‘The parent made choices, and for that reason, we have a child who will never see his fifth birthday.’

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — A 33-year-old Grant Township man convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the July 1, 2022 fentanyl death of his 4-year-old son was sentenced to 50 months to 15 years in prison in 51st Circuit Court Monday, April 17.

Jacob Scott Schutter, pleaded “no contest” to the charge Feb. 13 for Eli Jude Schutter’s death, and a charge of second-degree child abuse abuse was dismissed. 

The child’s mother, 30-year-old Jodi Michelle Neino, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse. Neino’s case is scheduled for trial July 12-14, and she remains lodged in the Oceana County Jail. 

Amanda Rudat speaks

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.”

Investigators testified finding drugs and drug paraphernalia in several locations throughout the home.

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. 

“The house was disgusting,” said Oceana County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Brown, one of the witnesses who testified last fall. “It smelled like a dumpster in the city in the summer. Flies were everywhere.”

Schutter’s sister and Eli’s aunt, Amanda Rudat, provided an emotional statement in court Monday while holding a photo of Eli.

“It’s very unsettling what we’ve gone through,” said Rudat. “The agencies that are supposed to help — that were called numerous times — never came back. I’m not sure why. Four years old…” she said as her voice trembled. “I’ve got no words, and so now my family has to move on. I have a brother who I love like my own son — we are 11 years apart. I’ve done everything I can do; my family has done everything they can do. I just wish the help was there when we really needed it. Twelve days short of meeting with a lawyer to try to get kids out of there — 12 days. Your parents are supposed to love and protect you at all costs, and I’m not sure where the drugs came from — who brought them into that home. I wish the help would have been taken from us when it was offered. Losing a child, a brother and someone who was like a sister-in-law all taken from my family, and now we have to move on, and I’m not sure how we do that, but we’re certainly going to try. I love my brother and I will — no matter what — stand by him. I hope he gets the help he needs and, I don’t know, laws need to be changed or something needs to be done to help kids. I love you Jake,” she said as she turned to her brother. 

Judge Susan Sniegowski

“I love you, too, sister,” said Schutter. 

“I just don’t want my family to hurt anymore,” she said.

“Your Honor, this is a tragic situation, there is no doubt about it,” said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon. “We are here because of the choices of a parent. Maybe laws do need to be changed — I don’t have the answer to that, Your Honor. But, I do know that it’s difficult to remove children from the home. But, we are not here because CPS (Child Protective Services) didn’t remove a child from the home. We’re here because the parent made choices, and those choices led to a child dying because of exposure to a very dangerous drug that is known to be dangerous — it’s not a surprise. The parent made choices, and for that reason, we have a child who will never see his fifth birthday. I wish that we could punish this person more, but the law is the law. In looking at what the guidelines are and in looking at MCL 769.34, the plea agreement and the recommendations from the probation department are appropriate and conforming with what the law says is supposed to happen in this case. I’m sure a lot of people think a lot more should happen, but this is what the law tells us to do.”

“To call this case tragic or sad or any of the other adjectives we can use, I don’t think does anyone any justice and I don’t think properly states the gravity of how we got here,” said Schutter’s attorney, Ryan Good. “My client has accepted responsibility for his portion of what got us here. Long after we’re all out of his life and his prison sentence is over, and he’s off parole and he’s on his own again, he’s still going to have to live with this. He’ll carry this the rest of his life. This isn’t something that is just going to go away. In some instances and in some criminal cases, people serve their time; they pay their debt to society; and they move on with life. For my client, I don’t think there is ever going to be a move-on. He lost a 4-year-old child; he lost his son. Eli is not coming back. He will never get to see birthdays. He’s accepting his responsibility for his portion of that. I ask the court to keep that in mind when imposing sentence today.

“Mr. Bizon and I have been over the guidelines several times, and I believe them to be fair and appropriate under the circumstances. He cites the sentencing guideline reform rules that have been put into place, I would cite them, too. There is no argument on the sentencing guideline ranges and I would ask the court to stay within the recommended range.”

“I have had the opportunity to review the pre-sentence investigation report, and I do echo what has been stated here that there is a guideline range of 50 months to 15 years, and those guidelines are advisory,” stated Judge Susan K. Sniegowski. “The maximum possible sentence in this offense is 15 years. Understanding what the sentencing statutes require us to do… I agree this does not seem to be anywhere near enough time for the death of a child. I also understand it was not an intentional death. We have an intentional act of bringing the drugs into the home or lack of supervising children when there are drugs in the home, and that’s what led to the child’s death. You can never overcome the death of a child. The punishment here — even though it seems small considering the extreme consequences of a child dying, it is what the law has in place for situations like this.”

When asked by the judge if he would like to speak, Schutter had no comment.

The children were removed from the couple’s home by Child Protective Services following Eli’s death. They are living with grandparents, said Bizon. 

Schutter received credit for 211 days served in jail.

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