Child fentynal death case against mom bound over to circuit court

November 2, 2022

Jodi Neino makes sneering smiles at the beginning of her court proceeding in Oceana County’s 79th District Court

Child fentynal death case against mom bound over to circuit court.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As Jodi Michelle Neino sat in the audience awaiting her case to be called before Judge John Middlebrook, she attempted to intimidate the writer of this article by constantly glaring at her for over an hour. When her case was called before the judge, she sat down at the defense table and made sneering smiles while being photographed. After the conclusion of the court proceeding, Neino and an apparent female family member harassed the journalist in the courthouse hallway. At OCP we will continue to do our job and cover court cases objectively, reporting to you, the reader, the testimony that is given during such hearings. 

HART — The criminal case against a 29-year-old Grant Township woman charged with manslaughter and child abuse in connection to the July 1 fentanyl death of her 4-year-old son was bound over to Oceana County’s 51st Circuit Court following a continuation of a preliminary exam in 79th District Court Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The court hearing was a continuation of an Oct. 11 proceeding when several witnesses took the stand, including forensic pathologist Dr. Jared Brooks, who testified that Eli Jude Schutter’s cause of death was “the toxic effects of para-fluorofentanyl and fentanyl.”

Both the defense and the prosecution rested their cases Tuesday and did not call any further witnesses to the stand.

“The evidence shows he died of fentanyl poisoning,” said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon, referring to the drugs in the couple’s home as like having a “loaded gun” in the house. “We believe we’ve met our burden, and I ask the court to bind over.”

Defense attorney Julie Springstead-Waltz argued that a “reckless act” has to be proven for child abuse. “Failing to act does not constitute a reckless act,” said Springstead-Waltz, citing case law. “The defendant must actually do something and do it recklessly. Failing to act does not constitute child abuse. The Murphy case clearly states that negligence does not constitute a reckless act.” 

No one knows how Eli came in contact with the drug that caused Eli’s death. There was no testimony about any act that Jodi did — none.”

A manslaughter conviction requires proof that Neino acted in a “grossly negligent manner,” said the defense attorney, with “wantonness and disregard of the consequences that may ensue. This constitutes a higher degree of recklessness.

Neino

“Testimony was presented that Jake Schutter had the drugs within arm’s length of Eli. But there was no testimony that Jodi did. The prosecution has not presented the evidence to bind Jodi Neino over on this charge.”

“It was never established whose fentanyl it was,” said Bizon. “The mother admitted she was an active user, and she admitted that she used the day the child died. She was aware of the substance being there and aware of children being in the home.”

Judge Middlebrook went to chambers and reviewed the case law Springstead-Waltz presented. “I want to read that before I make any decision,” he said. 

“There are some things I find, though, for purposes of this hearing that factually exclude this case from consideration,” he said after reading People v Murphy, 321 Mich App 355, 361; 910 NW2d 374 (2017).

“Ms. Neino’s act of consuming this drug cocktail of meth and heroin caused her to pass out. That was reckless. Based on that, the court will bind over on both charges.”

Jacob Schutter with his attorney Ryan Good.

Springstead-Waltz entered a not guilty plea on Neino’s behalf.

Neino, who is free on a $10,000/cash/surety/10 percent bond, will be scheduled to appear for a pretrial in 51st Circuit Court. The judge reminded her that her bond conditions continue. 

Eli’s father and co-defendant Jacob Scott Schutter, 32, remains lodged in the Oceana County Jail without bond following his arrest for operating under the influence of drugs after skipping a court hearing. Schutter’s case has also been bound over to circuit court

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