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Miller confronts Olea over death of son

Reads victim impact statement before maximum sentence imposed

Published: Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 5:34 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 5:48 p.m. CDT

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While it's entirely uncertain how long Joseph Olea will serve in prison after a Jasper County jury convicted him last month of child endangerment resulting in death, one thing was absolutely clear after Monday's sentencing hearing.

It won't be long enough to Chelsea Miller.

The mother of Olea's 6-month-old son Kaiden, who died in January of 2012 from injuries jurors said were inflicted by Olea. She expressed her feelings through a victim impact statement read to the court prior to sentencing Monday.

Olea eventually received a mandatory-maximum prison sentence not to exceed 50 years. District Court Judge Randy Hefner said Olea would be eligible for earned-time and work and program credits that can reduce his prison sentence.

Olea was further ordered to submit a DNA sample for profiling. While he will not have to pay for the state's expense in his defense, he was ordered to repay the state's expert witness fees — roughly $8,500 — and restitution to Jasper County in the amount of nearly $3,700, as well as $150,000 to Miller.

Olea was transported to Oakdale Medical & Classification Center. From there, he will be placed in the general prison population at a facility deemed appropriate by the Iowa Department of Corrections.

Miller didn't hold back during her statement to the court prior to sentencing.

"I trusted you, Joey," she said. "You were Kaiden's father. You weren't perfect, but I really thought you would always put Kaiden's needs before your own. I never thought you could hurt him, let alone cause his death."

Miller talked about her initial trust in Olea, a trust she said was shattered when she read Kaiden's autopsy report. She said, after reading the report, she knew Olea hadn't been honest with her about the events leading up to the child's death.

"But now you can live with that guilt," she said. Kaiden knows what you did to him. God knows and my dad knows. And you can live the rest of your life thinking about it."

She said Olea's actions "killed ... the hopes and anticipation" of everyone who loved Kaiden and who would never get to see him grow up. She added the pain this has caused will never go away.

Miller said she wants to believe Olea's actions weren't intentional, that he didn't hurt Kaiden maliciously. But, she said what she believes he did do is much worse in her mind: seeing their son suffering, as the only one who could help, and not providing that help.

"We will never know what might have happened if you had just gotten Kaiden the help he needed earlier in the day when you first saw that he was sick," she said.

She said Olea's testimony made her stomach turn, because she said, he was lying about asking her for help the day Kaiden fell ill. She also said she will never be able to trust again because of Olea's actions.

"I left you to care for our son — without question, without doubt — I trusted you because you were Kaiden's father," she said. "That was my mistake."

Miller also noted she was charged with one count of child endangerment resulting in death because of Olea's actions. She said it was "terrible" to sit in jail, facing the possibility of prison time, knowing she hadn't done anything wrong.

The Jasper County Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Miller following Olea's trial, saying the evidence did not support the theory that Miller knew she had put Kaiden in danger by leaving him with Olea. But, in the days leading up to the trial, her name was still connected to the child's death.

"My name and my picture were flashed across the television, and in the newspapers. That will never go away," she said. "That stigma will never stop following me, all because I trusted you to simply be Kaiden's daddy."

Noting that "no sentence can bring back my baby boy," or her ability to trust others in the future, Miller demanded the harshest sentence possible for Olea. She accused him of causing the death of their son, stealing a grandson from both their mothers, and robbing the world of "knowing the wonderful young man Kaiden could have been."

"[Olea] deserves no leniency," she said. "He deserves no sympathy."

Stepanek hearing continued

A pretrial conference to prepare for a child endangerment trial scheduled for next month was continued Monday morning, as well.

Sara Stepanek, 53, a Newton woman who was babysitting an 11-month-old child in her home in Newton, was charged in April of last year with child endangerment resulting in serious injury, a Class C felony. The charges were the result of a month-long investigation by the Newton Police Department that found the child's injuries were caused while in Stepanek's care.

Monday's pretrial conference was scheduled to hear any late motions by either side and to firm up the anticipated trial schedule. However, defense attorneys stated they needed more time for discovery and depositions.

A new pretrial conference has been scheduled for Monday, Feb. 17. Stepanek's trial is still scheduled to begin Wednesday, Feb. 12, in Jasper County District Court.

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