FARMINGTON – Two trials are scheduled today.
One is a jury trial for a Farmington woman accused of causing the death of a baby. The other is a bench trial for a Desloge man accused of setting a barn on fire while officers were in it searching for a meth lab.
The jury trial for 27-year-old Rebecca Siliven, of Farmington, is scheduled today and Tuesday in Ste. Genevieve County on a change of venue from St. Francois County. She is charged with abuse of a child.
The other trial is being held today for James Mahurin II, 34, of Desloge, who is charged with felony first-degree arson, and a misdemeanor charge of conspiring/tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution. A bench trial will be held in Farmington today before Circuit Court Judge John C. Brackman, who was assigned to this case from another circuit.
Siliven is accused of kicking 8-month-old EmmaLee Westhoff in the head and causing her death in June 2005. If convicted of the charge, Siliven could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
According to police reports, Dr. Russ Deideker, a pathologist at the hospital, performed an autopsy on the baby and discovered a skull fracture. He determined the cause of death was due to impact trauma to the head.
Siliven, who was the roommate of the baby’s mother, admitted to striking the baby in the head with the heel of her work boots the night before the baby died. She reportedly told police the baby was lying on the floor of her bedroom when she kicked her.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Siliven was convicted in 2003 of child abuse. She was placed on five years of supervised probation and ordered by a federal judge to take anger-management and parenting classes. The probation limited her contact with children and banned her from working in the child-care industry.
The Springfield News Leader reported in 2002 that Siliven had assaulted a 2-year-old girl at Fort Leonard Wood by kicking and stomping on the girls’ legs and striking her in the face.
Mahurin is accused of setting a barn on fire in April of 2005 while task force officers were inside searching for meth-related materials. Lisa and John Matthews of Gumbo have also been charged in connection with the incident that did not injure any officers.
Officers were investigating a meth lab at the Matthews’ residence in Gumbo when a fire bomb was thrown into the barn they were searching.
While members of the task force were in the barn searching, they heard someone shouting that the barn was on fire. The east side of the barn was completely covered with flames and the officers were able to extinguish the fire with the use of a nearby water source.
“After the officers extinguished the fire, they detected a strong odor of gasoline and located a melted plastic bottle at the base of the burned wall, and apparent accelerants in the bottle continued to burn,” David Bauer of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.
Prior to the fire, members of the task force observed John Matthews speaking on a telephone on at least one occasion while he stood in front of the barn and residence.”
“During the course of the investigation of the fire, a cigarette lighter, a blue cap to an Evian water bottle, a burned plastic bottle and photographs of shoe prints were recovered at the scene,” Bauer said. “Statements of numerous witnesses were obtained in which all indicated that James Mahurin was the person who set fire to the barn with the use of a plastic bottle containing gasoline.”
Mahurin was taken into custody and interviewed in reference to the fire at the Matthews’ barn.
“Mahurin admitted that he intentionally set the fire with the use of a plastic Evian water bottle, which contained gasoline in an effort to destroy the methamphetamine lab,” Bauer said. “During the interview with Mahurin, he further stated that John and Lisa Matthews asked him to destroy evidence of the methamphetamine lab located in the barn, by setting fire to the barn.”
Bauer said statements by witnesses corroborated the fact that there was telephone and personal communication between Lisa and John Matthews and James Mahurin immediately prior to the fire.
“There was also a substance recovered from a locked area of the barn, which field-tested positive for methamphetamine,” Bauer said.