GREENFIELD — An attorney representing the father of the 1-year-old girl who died in Greenfield last week has requested a psychological evaluation of his client in order to determine if the man is “not responsible by insanity” for his daughter’s death.
Greenfield attorney Jeff McClarnon has been appointed to represent Matthew Wagoner, 31, who faces charges of murder and neglect in the death of his daughter, Zoey Wagoner, who was found dead at her parents’ home.
Medical records show the child died from blunt-force trauma.
Matthew Wagoner has “exhibited behavior of an abnormal nature” and has “confused thought patterns,” court documents state. McClarnon argues “it is questionable whether (Matthew Wagoner) was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of the offense.”
Coroners ruled Zoey’s death a homicide after an autopsy was conducted last week. The results showed she died after suffering multiple blunt-force trauma injuries, including lacerations to her liver consistent with someone stomping on her, court documents state.
The toddler had swelling, scrapes and bruising all over her body as well as internal injuries, some that likely happened in the hours preceding her death and others that were weeks old, court documents state.
Her parents, Matthew and Jessica Wagoner, both pleaded not guilty to murder and felony neglect charges Tuesday in Hancock County Superior Court 1. If convicted, the Wagoners face more than 100 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.
If McClarnon’s request is approved by Judge Terry Snow, Matthew Wagoner will be examined by a forensic psychologist who is trained to determine if defendants are mentally fit to stand trial, said Kevin Minnick, a crime prevention specialist and registered therapist with the Hancock County Probation Office.
The appointed psychologist also would evaluate Wagoner’s actions and assign him a diagnosis, if one is appropriate, Minnick said.
Psychological evaluations for defendants accused of crimes of this magnitude are fairly rare in Hancock County, Minnick said.
In his 12 years working for the county’s probation division, he can recall only two requests being filed.
It is more common for therapists with the probation office to evaluate inmates, but those evaluations are not private, can be used during trial and will not lead to a diagnosis, he said.
Neither McClarnon nor Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton would comment as to what impact the evaluation would have on the case if Snow allows one to be conducted.
Matthew Wagoner was on suicide watch at the Hancock County Jail at the time the psychological evaluation request was filed, court documents state.
Jail corrections officer Sgt. Keith Oliver declined to comment on whether Wagoner was still being monitored as a suicide risk, but he said that, when any inmates make comments about harming themselves, it is treated with the utmost seriousness.
Inmates on suicide watch are given special gowns to wear, made of a thick fabric that is hard to rip, Oliver said. They are monitored more regularly, sometimes at five-, 10- or 20-minute intervals.
For their safety, Matthew Wagoner and Jessica Wagoner are being kept in individual cells that limit their interactions with other inmates, but they are not in solitary confinement, Sheriff Mike Shepherd said.
Jessica Wagoner submitted a request for a police escort to Zoey’s funeral, which was conducted Wednesday.
Her attorney, Philip Sheward, wrote in the request “it would be compassionate” to allow Jessica Wagoner to attend her daughter’s funeral to “appropriately say goodbye” to the 1-year-old. The document states Jessica Wagoner is “greatly mourning” the child.
Oliver said Jessica Wagoner was not permitted to leave the facility.
A trial has been set for Oct. 19. The Wagoners will return to court for a hearing in July.