Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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May 3, 2013

Elkhart man skips sentencing

GOSHEN — Daniel Pennington was sentenced to 23 years in prison Thursday. He didn’t learn this firsthand.

Pennington, 32, Elkhart, last month pleaded guilty in Elkhart Superior Court 3 to charges stemming from a toddler’s 2011 death in Goshen. He failed to show up for his sentencing Thursday.

After the proceedings, Elkhart County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker said a warrant would be issued for Pennington’s arrest.

In April, Pennington pleaded guilty to a Class B felony charge of neglect of a dependent and a Class D felony charge of obstruction of justice.

Two years ago, 19-month-old Mariah Gibson was the backseat passenger in a Jeep Cherokee SUV driven by Pennington. The girl’s mother, Mande Turner-Berger, was the front seat passenger.

Statements in court during the April plea hearing indicated Gibson wasn’t in a proper child restraint. The girl fell from the SUV as Pennington was making a turn.

Turner-Berger initially told police her daughter had been struck by a car in a hit-and-run crash at Eighth and Bridge streets, and that she had carried the girl to a nearby home. Residents there called 911. Gibson was taken to IU Health Goshen Hospital, where she was pronounced dead of a head injury.

Investigators determined that Turner-Berger had misled police. She later pleaded guilty to felony charges of neglect of a dependent and obstruction of justice.

Turner-Berger was sentenced to five years in the state Department of Correction. She was also sentenced to serve 10 years on probation, during which time she’s not allowed to have direct care responsibility of a child younger than 12 years old — including her surviving children.

After the fatal mishap, according to Becker, police expended resources looking for a hit-and-run driver who didn’t exist. She also said Pennington had intimidated Turner-Berger.

Turner-Berger herself, in police custody, was in Elkhart Superior 3 Thursday. She said that as a mother, she’s taken responsibility for her action. Turner-Berger feels that’s not the case with Pennington.

“I feel in my heart that Mr. Pennington is not in any way, shape or form remorseful for what happened to my child,” she said. “...My daughter’s gone forever.”

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