Kemmerer babysitter found guilty of murder

By Rana Jones, Kemmerer Gazette
Posted 5/15/24

KEMMERER — In a solemn and sobering — and, at times, quite dramatic — weeklong trial at the Third Judicial District Court in Kemmerer, the haunting details of child abuse and murder …

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Kemmerer babysitter found guilty of murder


KEMMERER — In a solemn and sobering — and, at times, quite dramatic — weeklong trial at the Third Judicial District Court in Kemmerer, the haunting details of child abuse and murder unfolded as Kemmerer’s Cheri Marler, 53, faced counts of first-degree murder and child abuse. Presiding over the proceedings, Judge Joseph Bluemel oversaw the prosecution’s relentless pursuit of justice and the defense’s efforts to challenge the accusations against their client.

Lincoln County Attorney Spencer Allred and deputy county attorney John Bowers represented the state of Wyoming as prosecutors as they presented a damning case against Marler, accusing her of the fatal beating of 5-year-old Annabelle Noles. Marler had been babysitting Noles and her younger sister for a couple of months in the fall of 2022.

Defense attorney Elisabeth Trefonas of Jackson spearheaded Marler’s defense, aiming to dismantle the prosecution’s case through rigorous cross-examination and alternative narratives.

One of the trial’s pivotal moments came with the testimony of Dr. Betty Mitchell, a physician who attended to Annabelle Noles upon the child’s arrival at the Kemmerer emergency room. Dr. Mitchell’s chilling account painted a stark picture of the child’s injuries, revealing a broken back, acute subdural hematoma (bleeding in the brain), and extensive bruising indicative of both old and new trauma caused by force. The medical evidence presented by Mitchell underscored the horrific nature of the injuries suffered by the young victim.

As the trial progressed, Trefonas sought to challenge the prosecution’s narrative, trying to raise doubts about the cause of the injuries and witness testimonies. Trefonas questioned Mitchell about potential alternative explanations for the bruising and abrasions, suggesting accidents such as falling off a swing set, which Marler said occurred in October 2022. However, Mitchell’s expert testimony steadfastly pointed to the unmistakable signs of abuse.

The trial delved into the circumstances surrounding the child’s tragic death, as Agent Roy Warren with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI) shed light on the lack of evidence of Marler’s claim that many of Annabelle’s injuries occurred when she fell down the stairs. Warren described the investigation of Marler’s stairway as having neatly stacked boxes at the bottom and an undisturbed dog water bowl.

He and Kemmerer Police Chief Michael Kahre testified that, from the tidiness of the stairs, it didn’t appear that there had been chaos on the stairs moments before police arrived, as Marler had described.

The courtroom also heard from witnesses intimately connected to the case, including Kayla Kartchner, the mother of the victim, whose tumultuous past and relationship with Marler came under scrutiny. Kartchner ‘s testimony revealed a troubled history marked by homelessness, substance abuse, physical abuse and alleged neglect of her children.

Trefonas attempted to cast doubt on Kartchner’s reliability as a witness, highlighting inconsistencies in her statements and questioning her credibility. Kartchner pleaded guilty in April 2023 of felony marijuana possession and received probation for the crime.

Further revelations emerged with photos showing the extent of Annabelle’s injuries and Marler’s own incriminating statements acknowledging her role in the abuse. Marler confessed to beating Annabelle the night of the murder while she was interrogated at the Kemmerer Police Department, and video footage shows her demonstrating how she slapped the girl’s head between both of her hands. The defense argued that Marler’s written confession, which included her admission that on Nov. 25, 2022, she lost control and hit Annabelle multiple times in the head, was forced after hours of interrogation at the police station.

“I smacked her too hard,” Marler said in a recorded conversation with Chief Kahre.

However, Marler testified on Thursday, May 9, that she did not beat Annabelle Noles. Marler stated she responded to Kartchner’s post on social media seeking childcare for two days a week, but that arrangement quickly shifted to Marler being the primary caretaker.

According to Marler, Annabelle was underweight and could not eat certain food because of an infection from her rotting teeth. Marler testified that she found it odd that Kartchner was absent in her daughters’ lives and tried to get her to be more involved by taking the kids on her days off from work.

Marler said Kartchner took her daughters for a few hours on Nov. 23, 2022, two days before Annabelle’s death. When asked why surveillance cameras did not pick up that visit, Marler said Kartchner and her boyfriend, Jason Geick, entered through the backdoor. Surveillance footage shows Kartchner and Geick dropping something in Marler’s mailbox by the front door later that day. In a tearful moment during Marler’s testimony, she said that, on Nov. 25, she found Annabelle’s body at the bottom of the stairs and called 911.

Bowers pressed Marler during his cross-examination, which seemed to upset the defendant. At one point, he asked Marler if she has a temper.

“No, I don’t,” she said with a raised voice, “but you’re sitting here accusing me of something. I’ve been accused by police. My family’s been threatened; my granddaughter’s been threatened…”

Bowers pounced on the opportunity to press further.

“Is that how you snapped with Annabelle?” he asked her in a tense moment.

“… I did not hurt this child,” Marler said, again in a raised voice.

Multiple experts, however, testified that Annabelle’s injuries were not consistent with a fall down the stairs but, rather, showed both new and old injuries from abuse.

As the trial drew to a close, the jury heard final arguments from lawyers before being excused for jury deliberation. Allred reminded the jury of Dr. Ruiz-Maldonado’s testimony that Annabelle’s wounds indicated inflicted physical injury due to blunt force trauma.

“Eventually, she succumbed to these fatal injuries. Her deep brain injury was a result of blunt force trauma, not just contact injuries” he said.

Trefonas told jurors that Marler was lied to repeatedly by law enforcement and, though investigators told Marler she was free to leave the police station the night of the incident, they followed her when she went outside to smoke a cigarette and later posted a guard at the hotel room she stayed at that night. She told jurors Marler wasn’t really free to leave, and that once her client made a coerced confession, officers stopped the investigation and relied solely on the confession.

As the community awaited a verdict, the jury was left grappling with the weight of the evidence presented and the devastating impact of the alleged abuse. After about four and a half hours of deliberation, the jury found Marler guilty of first-degree murder and child abuse.

First-degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison — with or without parole — or even the death penalty; however, prosecutors indicated early on in the proceedings that they would not seek the death penalty. Marler faces another 10 years for the child abuse charge.

Judge Bluemel ordered an updated pre-sentence investigation report to be completed at the request of the defense, and sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.