Abilene man accused of starving child takes plea for reduced charge

ABILENE, Texas - The husband of an Abilene woman convicted of severely starving her child pleaded guilty Wednesday as part of a deal to avoid a first-degree felony charge and trial by jury.

James Mayhall, 51, entered in an open plea for an injury to a child charge stemming from an investigation in early 2016 that found his daughter was severely malnourished to the point of being near death.

Mayhall's daughter was taken to the hospital on Jan. 4, 2016 when she stopped breathing. Doctors noticed the baby was significantly underweight, and alerted authorities. Mayhall, his wife, and two other people who resided in their house were arrested in February 2016.

Evangelia Mayhall, James’ wife, was found guilty of first-degree felony injury to a child in March, and she was sentenced to 50 years in prison. During her trial, a doctor testified that Mayhall’s daughter was the most malnourished she had ever seen.

(STORY -> Doctor says Abilene woman’s baby the most malnourished she’d ever seen)

But also revealed during Evangelia’s trial was that James had recently suffered from a stroke and was unable to care for himself.

James Mayhall’s defense attorney, Kevin Willhelm, told KTXS that the stroke was a factor in Mayhall’s decision to take the open plea deal. He said that Mayhall recognized that he couldn’t physically take care of the baby, but that he did observe the situation and should have called police earlier.

Willhelm said the Taylor County District Attorney’s Office offered a plea deal to reduce the charge from a first-degree felony to a second-degree felony for reckless endangerment. Willhelm added that Mayhall didn’t want to go through a jury trial, but also felt that the prosecution’s offer included more jail time than he wanted.

With a trial date looming on Monday, Mayhall entered the open plea to accept the second-degree felony charge but let Judge James Eidson determine the sentence. He now faces 2-20 years in prison as opposed to 5-99 years in prison for a first-degree felony.

A pre-sentencing investigation will be completed first, and Mayhall is scheduled to be sentenced on July 7.

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