CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After the judge had dismissed more serious charges stemming from the death of 11-year-old Jahlil Clements, a jury found a Charleston man guilty of the child neglect and domestic battery counts.
Ethan Chic-Colbert also had been charged with kidnapping and felony murder after his girlfriend's son was struck by a car on Interstate 64/77 in downtown Charleston while trying to flag down assistance as his mother was being attacked.
But Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom dismissed the kidnapping charge, ending prosecutors' hopes that he could be found guilty of felony murder as well.
The boy died as Chic-Colbert beat 32-year-old Lynitrah Woodson beside her car stopped on the highway.
The jury found the defendant guilty of one count of child neglect resulting in death, three counts of child neglect resulting in risk of serious bodily injury and domestic battery.
The judge cautioned family members to be restrained as the verdict was read. Woodson cried quietly. Earlier, she became distressed when the judge dismissed the more serious charges.
She told the jury Tuesday she was being severely beaten by her former boyfriend in the middle of the highway when her son was struck.
After hearing two days of testimony, including that of both Woodson and Chic-Colbert, the jury began to deliberate on the remaining charges late Tuesday afternoon.
The five-woman, seven-man panel deliberated for less than two hours before reaching a unanimous decision.
Chic-Colbert will be sentenced Aug. 15 and faces a possible seven to 31 years in prison.
Three of the child neglect charges pertained to other children who were in Woodson's vehicle. Two of the boys testified, telling jurors that Chic-Colbert was the aggressor and Jahlil attempted to stop him.
Chic-Colbert took the stand in his own defense and denied he bore responsibility for any of the children and did not leave them in peril on the dark roadway.
Instead, he said Woodson began the fight with him, stopped her car suddenly in the middle of the interstate and ordered him out. She climbed out after him, and he said he had to "body slam her to the pavement to get her off of me."
Assistant Prosecutor Dan Holstein asked him if he contended all of the other witnesses, including the children, lied.
"Yes sir," Chic-Colbert replied.
"Why would they do that?" Holstein asked.
"People have different reasons for lying, sir," the defendant told him.
Holstein said, "Isn't it true you blame everybody else?"
"Yes sir," Chic-Colbert said, denying he had any role in supervising the older children. He denied he ever struck Woodson.
"Isn't it true you said if you were charged, the driver of the car who hit him should be charged?" Holstein asked.
"Yes sir," Chic-Colbert responded.
That driver, Clyde Brown of Charleston, testified Monday. He was never cited in the incident.
The defendant said he was unaware of what was happening on the interstate and never saw the boy get hit. Instead, he said, he was jumping over the guardrail and running away to escape Woodson.
He said she bore the blame for putting the four children in danger.