Father pleads ‘no contest’ in death of hours-old baby

Local News

The father of a baby who died in 2016 and whose body was then stored in a plastic tote has pleaded ‘no contest’ to his role.

Jared Stark, 34, of Hicksville, pleaded no contest Monday in Defiance Municipal Court to charges of Reckless Homicide and Abuse of a Corpse. He initially faced charges of Involuntary Manslaughter, Endangering Children, Endangering Children, and Gross Abuse of a Corpse related to the October 2016 death of the infant, named Ezra Stark.

It was March 2018 when Defiance County Sheriff’s investigators discovered the child’s badly decomposed body on Stark’s rural Hicksville property. Authorities said the baby was born inside Arrowsmith Road home on Oct. 29, 2016, but died 10 hours later. 

It remains unclear how baby Ezra died.

Afterward, though, investigators believe Stark moved the baby’s decaying body from room to room before eventually placing it in a plastic storage container, according to court documents. Investigators said Stark then moved the container to a barn that was used to house farm equipment and animals. 

Defiance County Prosecuting Attorney Morris Murray said later that Stark, his wife, Sarah, and his parents, Steven and Sheryl Stark, “treated the deceased child’s remains in a manner that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities” over the year and a half they allegedly stored the infant’s body.

The three other Starks were also charged; their cases are pending.

Jared Stark faces up to 36 months in prison, but could be considered for probation. He will be sentenced March 12.

Stark declined to answer questions from WANE 15 after Monday’s hearing. His attorney also would not comment.

The Starks are all affiliated with the Gospel Light Tabernacle in Hicksville, and police have said the couple’s alleged refusal to seek medical attention for the dying baby could have been for religious reasons. Murray said that did not play into the grand jury’s decision to indict them, however. 

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