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Jamestown man indicted in death of 16-month-old child

Matthew Nuttal

JAMESTOWN — A Chautauqua County Grand Jury has handed up an indictment charging a Jamestown man with first- and second-degree manslaughter after the death of a 16-month-old in April.

Jason Schmidt, Chautauqua County district attorney, announced the indictment Wednesday. Jamestown police were notified April 15 of a suspicious death of a child that occurred April 13 in the city. An investigation showed Matthew E. Nuttall, 26, allegedly caused the death of Isaac Benton by blunt force trauma. Nuttall was charged April 17 with second-degree manslaughter and was arraigned April 18 by Judge George Panebianco before being sent to the Chautauqua County Jail on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million property bond.

Nuttal allegedly threw the child into a Pack-and-Play portable crib because he was frustrated the baby wouldn’t stop crying. The child’s spinal cord was severed, which caused the child’s death.

At his arraignment on a superseding indictment recently filed by Schmidt, Chautauqua County Court held Nuttall on bail of $1 million cash or, in the alternative, a $500,000 property bond. He is due back in county court in July for further pre-trial proceedings.

“This indictment comes as the result of a comprehensive investigation conducted by investigators and juvenile detectives of Jamestown Police Department, and because of the observations and suspicions of a very capable coroner who suspected abuse despite the story initially provided to first responders. Their efforts and professionalism deserve special recognition,” Schmidt said.

Coincidentally, legislation was introduced in the state Assembly shortly after the death of Isaac Benton to increase the punishment for manslaughter cases that result in the death of a child. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Schenectady, is proposing in A.10066 that manslaughter crimes that result in the death of a child should be upgraded to class A-1 felonies. Currently, manslaughter resulting in a child’s death is treated only as a Class B or Class C felony, depending on if it is a first- or second-degree charge, without differentiation from adult deaths. Upgrading the charge to a Class A-1 felony would mean such cases receive the maximum sentence under New York guidelines.

Santabarbara said his bill is the result of a Schenectady case in which a 5-year-old girl died from starvation. Her father was charged with second-degree manslaughter, a class C felony, and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

“This bill ensures that those responsible for neglect or abuse leading to the death of a child must face the toughest penalties and full accountability under the law,” Santabarbara wrote.

Schmidt took the opportunity announcing the indictment to note the death of three children in April in Chautauqua County.

“What makes this string of tragedies even more difficult to come to terms with is that April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month meant to spotlight the need for increased public awareness of child abuse and neglect. In all my years of criminal work, and before then, during my years as a child welfare caseworker in New York City, I have never seen this number of child homicides in such a brief period of time. These are preventable crimes. Before April, if someone would have predicted that Chautauqua County would be afflicted with this many child tragedies in the span of a few weeks, I would have thought it unimaginable. We cannot let this trend continue. Each and every one of us must all be vigilant in looking out for and protecting the safety and well-being of our children. To the public, if you see something which leads you to suspect child abuse or neglect, say something. Report your suspicions by contacting your local police or calling the statewide child abuse hotline at 1-800-342-3720. Anyone who legitimately suspects child abuse or neglect can make a report, and may do so anonymously. There is no excuse for failing to act.”

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