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What started out as a routine sentencing hearing here last Friday took an unusual turn. In fact, Howell County Judge Don Henry said it was the most unusual thing he had witnessed in his 10 years on the bench and more than 30 years as an attorney.
Britni Tyra, 23, charged with child abuse in April of last year, had entered an Alford plea with the court in December. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but admits the prosecution has enough evidence to convict.
Sentencing was set for last Friday afternoon and Judge Henry was assigned by the court to pronounce sentencing.
After some statements and questions from Judge Henry to the defendant, and a couple of brief recesses for conferences, intermingled with testimony from witnesses called by Prosecuting Attorney Roger Wall, the judge admitted the case was not at all what he had expected and gave Tyra an opportunity to withdraw her previous plea. After conferring with her attorney, Chris Swatosh, of Ava, she did, in fact, withdraw the original Alford plea.
The prosecutor’s office said this week that a new judge will be assigned to hear the case and a date will be set for a trial.
Called as witnesses in the case were the parents of the child who was allegedly abused at the age of 16 months. The father, Chris Scribner, and mother, Ashley Scribner, were separated at the time, and Chris Scribner was living with Tyra, who is accused of abusing the child.
Ashley Scribner said the child is still being evaluated by physicians, but is believed to have suffered some long-term or permanent damage from the injuries sustained almost a year ago.
Judge Henry said when he was assigned to the case he was told the child suffered no permanent injuries.