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Mother charged with murder in death of 2-year-old son

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Some cases are just more difficult than others. This one, involving the alleged murder of a 2-year-old child by his mother, is about as difficult as it gets, authorities said Friday.

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    Such was the case for one investigator last week, who, after finishing his duties, called his grandson, because it had affected him so deeply.
    Shana Marie Witt, 24 of Bedford, has been charged with strangling her 2-year-old child to death.
    On Thursday afternoon at 1:35 p.m., Bedford County 911 dispatchers received a call from 1066 Peaksview Lane, Bedford. The caller, Michael Smith, 25, advised dispatchers that his son was unresponsive and not breathing.
    Bedford County Fire and Rescue units along with Bedford County sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene.  Resuscitation  efforts  were started and the child was transported to Bedford Memorial Hospital, where the child was pronounced dead. The victim’s body was transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke and an autopsy was performed Friday morning.  
    Investigators learned that Michael Smith, the father, Shana Witt, the mother, and two children, one 5 years old and the victim, 2-year-old Jordon Smith, resided at the Peaksview Lane residence. The 5-year-old child was with a relative and not at the residence when the incident occurred. Smith and Witt are married. 
    Thursday night, Bedford County Sheriff’s investigators charged Shana Witt with first degree murder of the child. An autopsy performed Friday morning revealed the child had been strangled, authorities said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
    “Natural causes were ruled out,” Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown said of the autopsy results.
    The father, Michael Smith, was also arrested and charged with two counts of felony child abuse and neglect and one count of manufacturing methamphetamines. Authorities said at the news conference that there was evidence of a meth lab at the home.
    Authorities also allege that the couple delayed calling for help, from one to four hours, while they got rid of meth at the residence.
    Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz said, in determining probable cause, they believe “this was a willful, deliberate and pre-meditated murder.”
    The murder charge carries a possible sentence of 20 years to life in prison while the manufacturing methamphetamines charge carries a potential sentence of five to 40 years. The child abuse and neglect charges carry one to five year, and one to 10 year, potential sentences.
    Krantz said while Smith is not charged in the child’s death, he is believed to have been in the house when it occurred.
    “Additional charges are possible,” he said.
    The 5-year-old child was taken into the custody of the Department of Social Services and placed with other relatives, Krantz said.
    The county’s Violent Crimes Response Team coordinated the investigation.
    Krantz commended the investigators’ response in the midst of a difficult case.
    “It affects the deputies,” Brown said of this kind of case in which a child is injured or killed. “It’s difficult for all of them. It rips your heart out.”
    As difficult as this type of case is, “these officers had a job to do and they did it.”
    But, he added, many of them also took time to look at pictures of their own children as well.
    Both Smith and Witt were being held in the Bedford Adult Detention Center on no bond. Both were appointed counsel Friday; a date for a preliminary hearing has yet to be set.