Cambridge woman sentenced for her role in child abuse, son's death

CAMBRIDGE − A Cambridge woman was sentenced Monday to 3 1/2 years in prison for her role in incidents that resulted in the death of one of her children and severe injuries to another.

Shelby L. Stormes, 25, was indicted in June 2021 with two counts of endangering children, third-degree felonies, and one count of tampering with evidence, a fourth-degree felony. She entered guilty pleas to the charges in November in Guernsey County Common Pleas Court as part of a plea deal involving her testimony against Alexander Wells.

Wells, 27, was indicted in June 2021 with two counts of aggravated murder, unclassified felonies, with specification that the murder victim was under the age of 13, one count of murder, an unclassified felony, one count of involuntary manslaughter, a second-degree felony, two counts of felonious assault and endangering children, second-degree felonies, and one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.

Wells avoided a possible death penalty by entering a guilty plea to charges in July. He was accused of causing serious physical injuries that caused the death of Emrys Pyle, 4. Doctors determined the child died of major blunt force trauma. Wells received 20 years to life in prison. If he's ever released from incarceration he will have to register as a violent offender.

During a previous hearing, authorities alleged Stormes violated the duty to protect, care for and support the children resulting in serious physical harm. The charge pertaining to Emrys alleges the crime occurred on March 7, 2021, while the charge for the second boy, not named by officials, resulted from a course of conduct from Dec. 1, 2020, through the same date in March.

Stormes received 24 months for each of the child endangering charges and 12 months for the tampering with evidence charge to be served consecutively for an aggregate term of 60 months in prison. She was granted 540 days of credit for local incarceration and, after she leaves prison, she will serve up to two years of post-release control.

Attorney Beau Cross of Caldwell said his client had already served close to 18 months in the Guernsey County Jail, what would be a mid-level sentence for her crimes. He argued for community control sanctions, citing Stormes had no previous criminal history and a low likelihood of offending again. He also mentioned how Stormes was seeking treatment in jail for issues related to mental health and alcohol and marijuana abuse. Cross asked for her continuing to seek treatment be made requirements of any probation.

"She failed to protect them, plain and simple," Cross said referencing the children. "She didn't cause the actual harm but, more or less, created the environment that led to this and misleading police during their investigation, which she ultimately did come clean about. She was honest about what led to the harm and I think that led to Alexander Wells entering a plea."

Stormes spoke in court prior to sentencing on taking responsibility for her actions and how she'd like to help other women not make the same mistakes she did as a peer recovery counselor. Stormes said even if she received prison time, she would still pursue various peer counseling training and certifications.

"I failed my kids and I can't say I'm sorry enough for that. They were my whole life and I never intended them to be hurt, but I didn't prevent it and that's 100% my fault," Stormes said. "I'm in a much better place now than when that happened and I'm doing everything I can to make sure I don't fail them again. I believe I cannot only change my life, but, in the future, I hope to change other people's lives."

Judge Daniel Padden believed that Stormes was remorseful and commended her on wanting to help others. He also took into account Stormes' lack of a criminal history, her acknowledgement of drug and alcohol abuse and seeking treatment for it and her low chance to be a repeat offender.

However, Padden said there were two young boys severely injured, one dying, as a result of Stormes' actions. Cross argued being in a position of trust, as noted in the pre-sentencing investigation, didn't fit Stormes as that is usually reserved for someone in the public sector, like an elected official or a nurse who hurt a patient in a nursing home. Padden didn't see Cross' interpretation the same way.

"I'm not sure there's a more time honored position of trust, position of care, duty of care than a mother and child," Padden said. "A society is judged on how you protect the most vulnerable of its persons, the elderly and the young."

Padden then read from the detective's statement of his interviews with Stormes in the pre-sentence investigation. Stormes admitted to viewing abuse by Wells on Emrys, including him losing two bottom front teeth from a strike to the mouth and detecting worsening bruising on Emrys' body. Additionally, doctors who examined the child noted an old cervical spine fracture that had healed.

"These children didn't deserve this, nobody does," Padden told Stormes. "Had you on the first sign of these children being injured said 'beat it, Mr. Wells, get out of my house, you're not here if these kids are here,' this would be a whole different situation."

This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Cambridge woman sentenced for role in one son's death, another's abuse