As his body shook from symptoms of lupus, a Kyle man pleaded guilty Friday to failing to get help for a child who was being abused in his home, and then concealing from authorities that his wife had abused and killed the boy.
Mitchell Wisecarver, 44, is charged in federal court with misprision of a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.
Wisecarver, in a written court statement, said he knew his wife, Lori Wisecarver, had been physically abusing 2-year-old Jayden Locke after they brought the child into their Pine Ridge home in October 2014. They were raising the child together.
“He was aware Lori Wisecarver was physically abusing (Jayden), as he witnessed some of the abusive episodes and saw bruises on (Jayden’s) body,” his statement reads. He admitted failing to stop the maltreatment and not reporting it to authorities.
On Feb. 24, 2015, the boy died.
An autopsy revealed Jayden died from “multiple blunt trauma injury,” including bleeding in the brain and intestines, according to court documents. The child also had burn-like injuries on his face, bruises all over his body and breaks on the skin of his organ.
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Mitchell Wisecarver said he was at the dentist when his wife inflicted the fatal injuries. Afterwards, he said he helped her evade arrest.
Both were detained at the Pennington County Jail in September 2015 and charged with first-degree murder, felony child abuse (aggravated battery of an infant) as well as felony child abuse and neglect. Their charges have been modified under separate plea agreements.
Lori Wisecarver, also known as Lori Vocu, 43, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder. She admitted to regularly physically abusing Jayden, largely over toilet-training issues. She faces up to life in prison at her sentencing in May.
Mitchell Wisecarver came to the Friday hearing at the federal courthouse in Rapid City using a walker. His body shook whenever he stood up from his seat, and his right arm trembled as he swore to truthfully answer the judge’s questions. Wisecarver told the court he has systemic lupus.
His lawyer, Ellery Grey, asked the court to grant Wisecarver presentence release, citing as one reason his client being a former law enforcement officer and having no previous convictions. The court will set a separate hearing on the matter. Wisecarver's sentencing date has not been scheduled.
The Oglala Sioux Tribal Court gave the Wisecarvers guardianship of Jayden after his mother lost custody of him and two siblings because of drug problems, according to court records. Lori Wisecarver and Jayden were distant relatives.