By GRETCHEN EHLKE
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) – A 76-year-old Wisconsin woman accused of killing her infant daughter more than a half-century ago could serve little jail time after pleading no contest to second-degree murder Monday.
Sheboygan County prosecutors and the defense agreed to recommend Ruby Klokow be sentenced to 10 years of probation with 45 days in jail. Klokow was charged in the 1957 death of her 6-month-old daughter, Jeaneen, only after her son came forward in 2008 with horrific stories of childhood abuse.
Klokow told detectives when the death was initially investigated that the baby rolled off the couch and bumped her head. An autopsy determined the child died of a brain injury, and the death was ruled accidental.
After her son came forward, detectives questioned Ruby Klokow for five hours on two separate occasions, and she finally admitted she may have roughly thrown the baby on the couch all those years ago and the child bounced to the floor, according to District Attorney Joe DeCecco.
James Klokow Jr., now 57, told police that his mother blamed him for his sister’s death, DeCecco said.
“He always thought that he was the reason Jeaneen died,” DeCecco said, because his mother had convinced him.
Defense attorney Kirk Obear said Klokow was remorseful for her daughter’s death.
“She’s been heartbroken all these years over losing her child,” Obear said. “She was dealing with a lot of heartache.”
DeCecco said given Klokow’s age and her medical issues, the plea agreement was in the best interest of the state. It would have been difficult to convince a jury that a woman who “looks like everyone’s grandmother” was once “a very angry woman in her 20s who didn’t want to be a mom, who lied to police,” DeCecco said.
James Klokow Jr. had told police that his mother regularly beat him and choked him. He said earlier that he thought all children were abused and he didn’t come forward until adulthood because he thought it was too late.
“It’s dark family secrets that existed back then,” DeCecco said.
DeCecco also said the old law under which Klokow is charged would have given jurors the option to consider convicting her of manslaughter, a lesser charge. And, because the statute of limitations on manslaughter has expired, a conviction on that charge would have let Klokow walk away without consequence.
The case has been delayed several times since Klokow was charged in 2011. Her mental health status was in question and a judge ultimately decided she was competent to assist in her defense.
Dressed in a red sweater and white sneakers, Klokow told the judge she quit school at age 16 and that she was taking medication for depression, but fully understood she would be convicted of a felony by pleading no contest.
Besides Jeaneen and James, Klokow had another child, Scott, who died as a baby. His body along with Jeaneen’s was disinterred as police investigated, but Scott’s death could not be considered suspicious, DeCecco said.
Klokow remains free on $10,000 bail.
Judge Angela Sutkiewicz accepted Klokow’s plea and will consider the recommended sentence at a hearing April 15.