Destiney Diane Wheat gets two-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to child cruelty charges
Last year, Adairsville resident Destiney Diane Wheat was arrested and charged with the second degree murder of her 4-month-old son. In Bartow Superior Court Thursday morning, Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge Suzanne H. Smith sentenced Wheat to two years in prison — but not on the second degree murder charge.
Rather, Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rosemary Greene said that charge was “amended” to the offense of cruelty to children in the second degree.
“It wasn’t really reduced, because you can’t reduce a murder to a cruelty 2,” she told The Daily Tribune News. “But it was amended to fit the facts.”
Ultimately, Wheat entered a plea of guilty to two counts of second degree cruelty to children. Judge Smith accepted the State’s recommended sentence — 10 years on the first count, with two years to serve in confinement, and a consecutive 10-year probation sentence on the second count.
Wheat also faces a $1,000 fine and is ordered to pay several hundred dollars in miscellaneous public defender fees as part of the sentence.
“Additionally, she will be required to comply with the special conditions of probation, which in this case, will include for her to complete a mental health evaluation and follow any recommended treatment,” said Cherokee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Whitney Law. “This would make her, just by default, a convicted felon, so she would not be able to possess any firearms.”
As part of the sentence, Wheat will receive credit for time served dating back to Feb. 23, 2019.
The defendant’s infant son, 4-month old Raylan James Wheat, was pronounced dead on Sept. 28, 2018.
At a bond hearing last year
, Adairsville Police Department investigator Sgt. Eric Burns recounted the scene at Wheat’s residence at 210 North Main St. On the witness stand, not only did he say the home was littered with dirty diapers and bags of trash, but it appeared that the defendant was not administering oxygen to her premature infant as prescribed by medical officials.
In fact, he said he believed the oxygen equipment had been “tampered with,” adding that “the date was off and had not been used in 17 days.”
The defendant uploaded multiple videos of her infant son to YouTube, including several published after the child’s death. “Rest in peace, baby boy, mommy will see you again,” the defendant stated on one 27-second-long clip
. “Remember, mommy loves you so much my precious angel.”
At a bond hearing in March 2019
, Burns said the defendant had some prior Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) involvement, but to the best of his knowledge at no point was the child removed from Wheat’s home.
He also said Wheat checked her son out of a hospital about a week before his death — this, despite medical staff advising her against it.
The case was described as “a very unfortunate situation” by public defender Kearston Gill.
“Miss Wheat did grow up in foster care, there were some underlying mental health issues — I think at some point DFCS was involved in the case, but the system just failed in this particular situation,” she told the court. “Miss Wheat should not have been able to bring her child home from the hospital. There’s just a number of issues with this.”
Law said the defendant had no previous criminal history.
“Miss Wheat really thought in her mind that her child was OK, that he did not need this oxygen,” she said. “He was showing to her signs that he was getting better and he didn’t actually need to have this oxygen — it was nothing that she did intentionally, maliciously or anything like that in her mind.”
Such is a sharp contrast to Greene’s comments in court from May 2019, in which she described the case as “a situation of cruelty, of medical neglect of a fragile infant.”
Law said the other count of second degree cruelty to children stems from the unsanitary conditions of Wheat’s residence, which she said “were not that that a child should be living in.”
The sentence, she said, mirrors similar cases in the judicial circuit.
“We also had a case involving a negligent parent, who the child went off and drown,” she said. “That sentence was also a 20, two-to-serve.”
Gill also asked the court to allow Wheat to enter the guilty pleas under Georgia’s First Offender Act — an arrangement where, if the defendant is able to complete her sentence without any probation violations, she would be able to petition the court to expunge the convictions from her record.
Judge Smith agreed to do so, reiterating that failure to obtain evaluations or follow recommended treatments would constitute violations for the defendant.
“I don’t think that Miss Wheat is a criminal, I think she made a horrible decision,” Gill said. “I think she should qualify for First Offender, I think she makes a great candidate — and I think the main issue is just maintaining mental health treatment in this particular situation, and she has 20 years to comply with that.”