DOBSON —A mother accused in the 2012 death of her infant daughter pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter and negligent child abuse in Surry County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Billie Jo Floyd, 34, of Austin Drive, and her then boyfriend, Justin Wayne Barker, were each charged with second-degree murder after Floyd’s five-month-old daughter, Angel Rain Floyd, died under suspicious circumstances in November 2012.
During an interview at the courthouse before the hearing Floyd said she had been waiting for nearly four years, most of which was spent behind bars, for her day in court, for a chance to clear up some misconceptions.
“I’ve been waiting for a while to get some stuff off my chest,” Floyd said, namely that she had never laid hands on her daughter and that Barker had caused the injuries that led to Angel Floyd’s death, injuries that she hadn’t witnessed nor of which she understood the severity.
“I made a mistake not taking her to the hospital,” Floyd said, and in trusting Barker.
“Women have to learn how to keep their trust up,” she said. “I just want people to know I’m not a bad person and for women not to let their guard down. Always keep your kids close. You never know what’s going to happen.”
On March 24, 2015, Barker pleaded guilty by Alford decision to involuntary manslaughter and negligent child abuse causing serious bodily injury, both lesser charges from second-degree murder and intentional child abuse causing serious bodily injury.
He was sent to prison to serve consecutive sentences equaling 68 months to 104 months (about 5.7 years to 8.7 years).
During the hearing, both the defense and prosecution presented accounts of the infant’s death that supported Floyd’s contention that Barker had caused the physical injuries to Angel Floyd.
On Nov. 16, 2012, emergency personnel responding to a call had arrived at Barker’s Poteat Road residence, found the baby unresponsive and were unable to revive her.
Angel Floyd was “obviously injured,” with burns on her hands, feet and mouth, which raised suspicions, Assistant District Attorney Tim Watson stated in court Tuesday.
An autopsy performed at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center revealed the infant had sustained “classic immersion burns” from a hot liquid and also eight broken ribs, Watson said.
The autopsy results indicated the cause of death was due to sepsis, the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, and abscesses that stemmed from the wounds were the cause of death, and not the injuries themselves.
“If she had received proper medical treatment she would have been alive,” Watson said.
Doctors discredited Barker’s account that the infant had been burned in the bathtub, stating that the wounds were “from holding the baby’s hands and feet under running hot water,” Watson said.
Barker also claimed that Angel Floyd had rolled first off a chair and then off of a bed while Billie Jo Floyd had taken Barker’s mother to a cancer treatment appointment at Baptist and the infant was under his supervision.
Floyd claimed in her statement to the district attorney that both injuries had occurred to the baby in her absence, Watson said.
Barker had told her that the baby had become soiled with animal excrement and he had washed the baby under hot water and she “did not realize the extent of the burns until the blisters appeared,” Watson said. “She told the same story about the ribs.”
Watson said Floyd admitted she didn’t take her daughter to the hospital because she feared authorities would take the baby away, so she tried to treat the burns at home.
Paramedics reported that the baby’s hands and feet were covered with gauze when they arrived. Watson noted that Floyd had agreed to testify against Barker if necessary and that she had no prior felony record or charges.
“This is an extremely emotional case for my client,” said defense attorney Karen Adams, speaking on behalf of her client during the proceeding.
Adams noted that Billie Jo Floyd had been married for 20 years with three children before the marriage ended. Floyd, pregnant and living with a friend, became involved with Barker.
Witness statements indicated those interviewed “wouldn’t have anything to say about (Floyd). There were never any marks on the baby,” until bruises from when Barker said Angel Floyd rolled out of the chair, and “she never knew of the broken ribs,” Adams said.
Floyd regrets the decision to go out to Barker’s home, and that she didn’t remove her child from the situation, Adams said.
“She felt useless out there and abandoned.”
Senior Resident Superior Judge A. Moses Massey gave Floyd an active sentence of 23 to 40 months with credit for 1,124 days served.
Because the 1,124 days, which is just over 36 months, significantly exceeded the minimum, “the court therefore sentences to credit for time served,” Massey said.
“This court could never punish you as much as the results of what happened punished you.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.