Charges filed against mother of 8-year-old found dead in basemen - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Charges filed against mother of 8-year-old found dead in basement

Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin (Source: West Frankfort Police Dept.) Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin (Source: West Frankfort Police Dept.)
Crime tape surrounded the house at 1704 Oak Street. Crime tape surrounded the house at 1704 Oak Street.
Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin) Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin)
Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin) Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin)
Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin) Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin)
BENTON, IL (KFVS) - The mother of an 8-year-old girl found dead in her basement Tuesday faces new charges.

The Franklin County State's Attorney filed formal charges of concealment of a homicidal death and obstructing justice against 28-year-old Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin.

Zumwalt-Jophlin walked into court with her head down. Inside court, the 28 year old kept her head down. But once the judge started to read the newly filed charges Zumwalt-Jophlin appeared to cry.

According to court documents, Zumwalt-Jophlin allegedly hid the death of her daughter Alexus Smothers. The state accuses Zumwalt-Jophlin of knowing her 8 year old had died by homicidal means.

West Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Tharp says they got a 911 call from Zumwalt-Jophlin around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. 

He says officers went for the 8-year-old Alexus Smothers, first at her home at 1704 East Oak Street.  

Court papers allege Zumwalt-Jophlin put Smothers in the basement of where they lived.

"Our office has been with the victim since we discovered her body in the basement of that residence," Franklin County State's Attorney Evan Owens said. "This investigation is continuing. We anticipate it concluding in the next three to four weeks and we hope to have further charges in the matter."

The state also accused Zumwalt-Jophlin of lying to West Frankfort Police officers, telling them her daughter was missing. Instead she allegedly knew the 8 year old was dead in the basement.  According to police, Smothers's body was found in a crawl space.  

At a different court hearing, officers said the mother first called the child's death somewhat accidental then called it not accidental.

Investigators say they're waiting on toxicology results from the autopsy to share how the little girl died. Those results can take several weeks.  

Meanwhile Smothers funeral will be held Saturday in Christopher, Illinois.

Zumwalt-Jophlin is behind bars in the Franklin County Jail on a $250,000 dollar bond. She is expected back in court August 17, 2011.

Copyright 2011 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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