Sentencing begins in St. Charles hotel child beating

But does Elgin woman deserve prison?

Updated 9/20/2012 6:35 PM
  • Cathleen Koch

    Cathleen Koch

  • James Cooper

    James Cooper

Does Cathleen Koch deserve a lengthy prison term for failing to stop her then-boyfriend from severely beating Koch's nearly 2-year-old daughter, Molly -- giving her permanent brain damage -- and then covering for the boyfriend later while authorities searched for him?

Or does Koch, 30, of Elgin, deserve leniency because she was in abusive relationships in the past, has since given birth to a son, and has attended domestic violence and individual counseling sessions?

These are factors Kane County Judge Timothy Sheldon must consider when a sentencing hearing for Koch, who pleaded guilty in July to felony aggravated domestic battery, resumes next week.

Thursday, prosecutors called witnesses to testify that Molly suffered permanent brain damage as the result of a beating by James Cooper on Oct. 27, 2010, while he and Koch lived at a Super 8 Motel in St. Charles.

Eva Alessia, a doctor with the Rush-Copley Medical Group in Oswego, testified Molly is making progress since being hospitalized for six months, but Alessia doubts Molly will be able to attend a regular high school and probably will be limited in the working world.

"You can't regenerate brain tissue," Alessia said. "To a certain point, you can't do much more (to recover)."

Molly will be 4 in November and is now in the custody of her father, David Koch, who testified that Molly can speak but only in two-word sentences. She attends a preschool for special needs students and undergoes occupational, speech and physical therapy.

Carrie Johnson, who is Cathleen Koch's mother, testified that she became concerned two years ago after seeing numerous bruises on Molly's body. Johnson said she confronted her daughter numerous times, but Cathleen Koch was dismissive, saying, "Kids get hurt. It's no big deal."

Johnson testified she had a gut feeling her daughter's explanations were not true, and that she and others planned an intervention in October 2010 because Koch was not herself since she met Cooper. Koch also threatened to move to Florida with Cooper and not let Johnson see Molly again, Johnson testified.

"I had a mother's instinct that James (Cooper) was a bad person," Johnson said. "I was afraid something bad was going to happen."

Johnson and her husband, Steve, also both testified they saw Koch handle her daughter roughly while the two lived with them. Johnson also noted her daughter has attended counseling to become a better person and is very caring for her 10-month-old son.

"She has been in domestic violence relationships for at least 12 years," Johnson said of her daughter. "She has become more open and more social. Before she was more in a shell and distant."

Cooper, 29, of Elburn, pleaded guilty earlier this year to beating Molly and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The felony that Cathleen Koch pleaded guilty to carries a penalty of anywhere between probation and seven years in prison, but prosecutors also could argue for an extended term of up to 14 years in prison.

The sentencing hearing continues Wednesday.

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