Weather Forecast


Irene 'midwife' faces manslaughter charge after Nebraska infant's death

BROKEN BOW, Neb. (AP) -- A woman prohibited from practicing as a midwife in Nebraska and South Dakota has been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of an infant.

Judy K. Jones, 65, of Irene, S.D., was arraigned last week in Custer County Court in Nebraska. Prosecutors claim she told a Nebraska couple that she was a midwife even though she was unlicensed.

She was charged following the death of an infant, Eli Fenske, who was born in his family's rural Custer County home on Sept. 24, 2011, according to Lexington radio station KRVN-AM. The boy developed medical problems shortly after he was born, according to a sworn statement by a Nebraska State Patrol investigator.

An emergency room doctor who examined the infant told investigators that Eli's condition was "grave" when he arrived at the hospital in Broken Bow, according to court records. The baby was transferred to Kearney and then Omaha. The first doctor told investigators that Jones never consulted with her.

A second doctor in Omaha told investigators that he investigated Jones' history after examining the child and discovered that she was not licensed as a nurse in Nebraska. The Omaha doctor told investigators that the child had suffered brain damage and was partially brain dead because of a lack of post-birth care.

Investigators also found that Jones failed to perform blood tests before birth or any follow-up exams to ensure the child was healthy, according to court records. The infant's parents, Jeff and Whitney Fenske, told an investigator that Jones failed to contact a doctor after the delivery when the child stopped breathing. The parents said Jones massaged the infant to restart his breathing, and when the baby quit breathing a second time, she hit him on the back. The infant later died.

Jones' attorney, Stuart J. Dornan, told The Associated Press that his client will plead not guilty. Dornan said Jones was released from jail after a judge reduced her bond from $500,000 to $100,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 21.

The manslaughter charge "was a shock to her," Dornan said.

Investigators say Jones was ordered to stop practicing medicine in Nebraska without a license in 1999, and there are no records that she ever applied for a license. South Dakota authorities issued a similar order.