Statements made to police will stand in local child murder case

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. - Two years ago Friday investigators found the body of 8-year-old Alexus Smothers hidden under a crawl space at a home in West Frankfort, Illinois.

They later arrested her mother, now 30-year-old Mary Zumwalt-Jophlin and charged her with first-degree murder, concealing a death, and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors believe Zumwalt-Jophlin drowned her daughter and hid the body. But she hasn't gone to trial yet. The case stayed in the courts because Zumwalt-Jophlin changed attorneys. That process took about a year.

Her new attorney asked a Franklin County Circuit Judge to suppress statements his client made to police, saying their interview tactics went too far.

The judge denied that motion.

In the court order filed Wednesday, Judge Thomas Tedeschi ruled statements Zumwalt-Jophlin made to police in the hours after the find are admissible in court.

Zumwalt-Jophlin's attorney Terry Green said West Frankfort police officers tried to make his client look at a picture of her dead daughter, and raised their voices at her, even hitting a table with an ink pen.

He alleged those actions caused her to make involuntary statements.

The judge said that's not so. His ruling states that during the interviews, Zumwalt-Jophlin appeared to have control of the situation, meaning what she said will stand.

Relatives of Alexus Smothers were present for Thursday's court hearing, but they declined to comment.

Zumwalt-Jophlin will be back in court August 8th for a pretrial conference. The judge said at that time he wants to set a trial date.

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