More than a year after the state Court of Appeals released him from prison, Jehn Wood is behind bars again for the death of a toddler. After six hours of deliberations Thursday, a jury found the 34-year-old Fernwood, Idaho, man guilty of felony injury to a child.
It wasn’t the first time.
Wood originally was convicted of the crime in December 1992. The child, 2-year-old Tasha Almandinger, died in November 1990.
The child’s mother, Pamela Almandinger, testified in the first trial that she left the child for a few minutes with Wood. She later married Wood.
An autopsy showed the child died of a blow to the head, causing bleeding and swelling of the brain.
Although there were no witnesses, Wood was accused of beating the girl and charged with second-degree murder. In 1992, a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge - injury to a child.
Wood was sentenced to 10 years in prison, even though he maintained the girl had choked on a grape.
In August 1994, the Court of Appeals overturned his conviction.
His attorney, James Siebe, argued that Wood was convicted because certain testimony prejudiced the jury against him in the original trial. The Appeals Court held that Tasha’s mother and a co-worker of hers should not have been allowed to testify about Wood’s temper and alleged violent behavior before the girl’s death.
Wilma Banderob testified she had seen bruises or marks on co-worker Pamela Almandinger’s throat and that Almandinger had told her she had been choked by Wood.
After the conviction was over-turned, Benewah County Prosecutor Rich Christensen refiled the charge against Wood in March this year. The new trial began Oct. 30 in Shoshone County.
This time, Christensen did not present any evidence detailing Wood’s alleged tendency toward violence.
He did, however, have the same three medical specialists testify about the cause of the toddler’s death as they testified in the first trial.
Christensen believes their testimony about the bleeding and bruising on the girl’s brain and the broken blood vessels in the eyes convinced the jury that Wood was guilty.
“I believe she was struck in a moment of rage,” Christensen said. “I think this is another wake-up call to everyone that we need to be careful in protecting our children.”
Authorities took Wood into custody after the verdict was returned.
“It’s a chapter that’s been closed, hopefully, but it still doesn’t negate the tragedy that happened for the child Tasha,” Christensen said. “That’s something we can’t take back no matter what the justice system does.”
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