Fayette couple wants resentencing in girl's death

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A hearing will be held next week for a Fayette County couple who are serving up to nine years in prison in the death of their 15-month-old, special-needs daughter but want to challenge those sentences.

Robert D. Dodson, 58, and his wife, Tammy Jo Bohon, 37, formerly of Point Marion, both were sentenced in October 2012 to 4½ to nine years in prison in the death of Madison Violet Dodson.

The pair avoided trials on homicide charges by entering guilty pleas to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Madison had multiple health problems and required a feeding tube, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing in November 2011. The girl died Jan. 6, 2011, of malnutrition and dehydration because of neglect, according to an autopsy report.

Dodson and Bohon are scheduled to appear before Judge Steve Leskinen on Wednesday for a hearing on their post-conviction petitions. Dodson is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion in Erie County. Bohon is at SCI Muncy in Lycoming County.

Madison's feeding tube was not connected for most of the day leading up to her death, and she was vomiting and had diarrhea, according to court records.

Bohon told police that she planned to take her daughter to the emergency room, but she instead went to Masontown to smoke crack with a friend and fell asleep. Dodson told police that he rigged a replacement feeding tube with tape and went to sleep.

After they were sentenced, each obtained a new attorney.

Those attorneys filed petitions under the Post Conviction Relief Act seeking new trials or sentencing hearings, claiming their clients received inadequate representation when they entered guilty pleas. Those claims will be the subject of the hearing before Leskinen.

Defense attorney Kimberly Kovach of Uniontown contends Bohon is innocent and she was unaware the plea deal's terms called for a higher sentencing range than typical for the offense.

Kovach argues there is cellphone evidence to show Bohon “was not in custody of the victim at the time of death of the victim or for a number of hours prior to the victim's death.”

That evidence lessened the likelihood of a homicide conviction, Kovach said in the motion, meaning Bohon “should not have been advised by her counsel to accept the plea offer and agree to a higher sentencing range.”

Dodson's new attorney, Vincent Tiberi of Uniontown, contends his client is innocent and deserves a new trial or sentencing hearing because his previous attorney failed to review discovery evidence with him, or to keep him apprised of plea negotiations, among other allegations.

Bohon's previous attorney, Dianne Zerega of Uniontown, declined comment. Dodson's previous attorney, Jack Connor of Uniontown, could not be reached for comment.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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