Shelton pleads guilty, could get 20 years

October 22, 2004|KATHERINE BELCHER

STANFORD - With less than two weeks to go before the start of her trial for allegedly stealing a newborn baby, Tanya Shelton, 25, entered a guilty plea Thursday in Lincoln Circuit Court to an amended kidnapping charge.

Shelton was charged with taking Grayci Barrows from Fort Logan Hospital in the early morning hours of April 2.

Once hospital officials notified police of the kidnapping, an Amber Alert was issued, and the baby was found several hours later in an alley in Bowling Green by a woman walking her dog. Shelton was working part-time as a nurse's aide at the hospital at the time of the kidnapping.

Thursday's court appearance was a somber event, with family members of the victim and defendant seated on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery presented the plea agreement, which was worked out with Shelton and her attorney, Ted Dean of Harrodsburg, to Judge Robert Gillum. The judge accepted the plea after asking Shelton a series of questions to ascertain whether she understood and agreed to the conditions of the plea.


Although Shelton admitted that she suffers from a psychological problem, bipolar disorder, she told the judge that it did not impair her ability to make decisions.

Under the agreement, Shelton pleaded guilty to kidnapping, a Class B felony, which was amended down from a Class A.

Montgomery recommended a sentence of 20 years in prison. Had she been convicted of Class A kidnapping, Shelton faced 20 years to life. Final sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 12.

Shelton waives her right to appeal. As part of the plea, she cannot apply for shock probation or conditional discharge and is not eligible for parole for at least four years.

Shelton also was indicted on a charge of second-degree burglary that will be dismissed at sentencing as part of the plea agreement.

Plea follows months of negotiations

After the hearing, Montgomery said plea negotiations had been going on for several months between his office and Dean's. He added that the victim's family had been consulted about the arrangement with Shelton and was as happy as could be under the circumstances.

"We've been talking about it from the start," said Montgomery. "These parents are young and don't necessarily want the stress and publicity of a trial ... they want to see her punished and she has been."

Montgomery went on to say that when plea discussions take place, you have to consider the wishes of the family and weigh that against the risk of going to trial and the appeals process and do what's best.

Neither Grayci's nor Shelton's family wanted to comment publicly about the agreement but did seem relieved that the end of the case is near.

Montgomery said that to the best of his knowledge, the baby is healthy and doing fine.

"The miracle of this case is that the baby was found alive and healthy, that the cops got on this quickly," said Montgomery. "I'm happy with the 20 years if the victims are happy."

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