APB Online

March 3, 2000

Woman Charged With Killing Toddler Son

Boy's Father Had Just Won Custody

By Valerie Kalfrin
APB Online

CENTER, Texas (APBnews.com) -- A woman on probation for shooting her ex-husband is facing the death penalty for killing the son she had by another man after a judge awarded custody of the boy to the father, authorities said.

Officials said Edith McCleskey, 40, shot the 3-year-old in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun Thursday afternoon in her rural Shelby County home because, they believe, she was distraught about the custody ruling. The new arrangement was to begin Monday.

McCleskey's ex-husband, Dennis Ray Moore, is not the boy's father. McCleskey was charged with aggravated assault in 1993 for shooting Moore, but was put on probation because Moore "was not interested in her being put in a penitentiary," Shelby County District Attorney Lynda K. Russell said.

Moore could not be reached for comment.

Russell, who took office in December, said she did not know why the boy's father, who was never married to McCleskey, raised the issue of custody when he did or whether the couple had had any prior arrangement. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Called neighboring county

Russell's office reported the shooting around 1:15 p.m. Thursday after McCleskey inexplicably called officials in a neighboring district, St. Augustine County.

"She said she shot the child," Shelby County Sheriff Carl Shofner told APBnews.com.

The boy was dead when paramedics arrived at McCleskey's house on County Road 1095, located in a rural part of Shelby County known as the McClellan community, Shofner said. The woman's two older children were not at home at the time of the shooting and are believed to be staying with relatives, he added.

"She appeared to be upset but she ... wouldn't talk about it," the sheriff noted. "It's just a sad thing for a child that age not to see life as the rest of us do. He didn't have the opportunity to see life."

Death penalty sought

Some residents in this town roughly 20 miles west of the Texas-Louisiana border remember McCleskey from an appearance on the Phil Donahue show years ago, after she was charged with shooting Moore.

The prosecutor told APBnews.com that she expects a grand jury to indict McCleskey on a capital murder charge early next week.

In the meantime, McCleskey is being held without bail at the Shelby County Jail for violating her probation. Asked whether she would seek the death penalty, Russell said, "Without question."

Valerie Kalfrin is an APBnews.com staff writer (valerie.kalfrin@apbnews.com).

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