The judge at a complex and compelling child-abuse trial of Bend woman Trishelle Jane Linschied agreed Thursday to go along with the conditions of a late-arriving plea deal.
But at Linschied’s sentencing hearing Thursday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, Judge Bethany Flint imposed a special condition at the request of the victim’s family.
“We have used the victim’s name in court as a function of this trial, but you shall not disparage Jackson Sykes,” the judge said.
Linschied, in testimony and in texts to friends and relatives, described Jackson as a difficult child with supposedly odd behavior. But Flint ordered on Thursday that Linschied may write about her own personal experience with the case but she may not use her victim’s name in social media posts or other writings.
“You are convicted of criminal mistreatment in the third degree, and she is your victim, despite the fact that you don’t acknowledge that,” Flint said.
On the afternoon of Oct. 31, 2018, 14-month-old Jackson Rose Sykes suffered a significant brain injury while in Linschied’s care.
Linschied, then 25, maintained Jackson had fallen 2 feet off a bed and hit her head, but medical experts in Linschied’s two-week trial testified the girl’s injury could not have occurred in the way Linschied described.
She was arrested several months later, and she resolutely maintained her innocence. Her case was delayed getting to trial by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At her trial in May, the state entered as evidence search engine queries by Linschied, such as, “why do i want to hurt defenseless people?” and “wanting to hurt random babies for no reason.”
Earlier this week, as the jury deliberated, Linschied reached a plea deal with prosecutors. In exchange for pleading guilty by Alford plea to one count of criminal mistreatment, the state agreed to drop the more serious charge of first-degree assault, which could have sent Linschied to prison for years. She was instead sentenced to 30 days in jail.
In an Alford plea, defendants do not concede guilt but agree the state could convict them.
Prosecutor Stacy Neil told the judge the penalty did not feel adequate.
“From the state’s perspective, we are extremely disappointed,” Neil said. “This offers some sort of conclusion and finality. But what is justice for them is something that we can’t give them right now.”
Defense attorney Todd Grover said he believed deeply in his client’s innocence and that the result of the case was disappointing for “practically everyone.”
Grover asked the court for no jail time. Practically speaking, he said, a month in jail would likely cause Linschied to lose her job as a work-from-home customer service representative for a major company. Beyond that, Grover said, 30 days is an unjust penalty for the charged crimes.
“If she is innocent, then putting her in jail for 30 days is a gross injustice. And if she is guilty, then 30 days is not nearly enough,” Grover said.
Linschied said in her brief statement to the court that the case has been hard on everyone involved.
“I would just say that the last 3½ years have been hard for everyone involved, and at this point, I’m ready to as gracefully as I possibly can, accept your ruling and conditions you require so I can move on and make best of the situation,” she said.
Flint told Linschied she viewed the same evidence as the jury, and saw that it was “more than sufficient” to convict for third-degree criminal mistreatment.
Flint ordered that the only children Linschied may lawfully care for would be her own, if she ever has any.
“Jail is designed to punish and at the end of the day, this agreement results in a criminal conviction for criminal mistreatment in the third degree,” Flint said, noting the maximum she could assign Linschied is 90 days.
Jackson’s parents both addressed the court at sentencing.
Jackson’s mother, Brittney Duncan, spoke of the horror of watching her bright baby girl turn into a “zombie” before her eyes.
“My life was completely turned upside down,” Duncan said. “The choices of Trishelle’s actions are something I’ll take through the rest of my life.”
After the hearing, sheriff’s deputies led Linschied away in handcuffs.
Around half the jury attended the hearing, seated this time in the audience gallery rather than the jury box. Several wept as Linschied was taken into custody.
The jurors talked in a circle outside the courthouse long after the hearing had let out.
“We were pretty close on the first charge and pretty stuck on the second charge,” said jury foreman Ban Tat, a Bend resident, referring to assault then mistreatment. “There were just too many red flags on both sides to get a unanimous decision. We were going back and forth. Getting a unanimous vote is a pretty high standard.”