Mother faces murder charge for daughter's death


Reporter - Robert Bradfield
Photojournalist - Ryan Brooker

BENTON, Ill. — Making her first court appearance since learning of her first degree murder charge, Mary Zumwalt-Jophlin had a small crowd of supporters.

"There's no possible way my sister would do that to my niece," Jennifer Gaskin said outside the Benton, Illinois courthouse.

Gaskin said police have it all wrong. She maintains her sister didn't kill Alexus Smothers inside a West Frankfort home. Gaskin said her sister isn't a murderer.

"I know my sister and we've been close on and off through our lives and even though she's my sister, I would tell you if I thought she's guilty and she's not," said Gaskin.

But Franklin County State's Attorney Evan Owens said there will be no more arrests in this case and charged Zumwalt-Jophlin with murder, saying she drowned Smothers and hid her body. Despite learning the new charges against her sister, Gaskin said her faith will pull her family through.

"God has a reason for everything and he only gives what they can handle, you know, and it will all come out and he'll bring it all out."

Zumwalt-Zophlin is being held in the Franklin County Jail on $2 million bond.