Plea change set for Watertown man acquitted of killing child
By Carson Walker
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A Watertown man acquitted of killing his girlfriend's toddler plans to plead guilty to at least one new child abuse or drug charge in order to avoid another trial, the head prosecutor in the case said.
A motions hearing scheduled Wednesday for Jay Barse, 26, has been switched to a change of plea hearing, according to the Codington County Clerk of Courts.
Codington County State's Attorney Dawn Elshere, the lead prosecutor, declined to say Monday which charge or charges are included in the plea agreement. She said Barse has not signed it yet.
Jurors found Barse not guilty Nov. 4 of second-degree murder and the lesser offenses of first- and second-degree manslaughter for the March death of 14-month-old Serenity Seaboy. She was treated for head trauma but later died.
Barse later was charged with four new counts: one each of child abuse involving a victim younger than 7 and keeping a place for use or sale of a controlled substance, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine and oxycodone. He was scheduled to stand trial Jan. 16 on those.
Barse's lawyer, Roger Ellyson of Watertown, confirmed Monday that there is a plea deal but declined further comment.
Serenity was the daughter of Barse's ex-girlfriend, Sherry Scherer. He lived with the woman and child at the time.
During Barse's murder and manslaughter trial, jurors watched a videotaped police interview during which he acknowledged abusing the girl four days before she went to the hospital — a separate incident from the allegation in the trial.
Barse said the toddler was crying constantly and being fussy that day, so he walked up behind her while she sat on the living room floor and struck her in the back of her head with his fist. He said she fell forward and began crying and that he gave her a bottle and put her in her bed.
Barse sobbed in the courtroom as he watched the interview.
Elshere said the new charge of child abuse stems from that incident. She said Barse will not be sentenced at Wednesday's hearing.