Parents Charged With 1st Degree Murder of baby son (BOTH CONVICTED)

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UPDATE 6/18/08 - The prosecution has decided not to seek the death penalty in this case, citing mental health concerns and the parents each blaming the other for baby Benjamin’s death.  That said, I’m hopeful that life in prison will include a few days in a restraint chair for this pair of heinous babykillers.
The comments in the link above are a MUST READ.


Case No. 08-CF-200
CASE SYNOPSIS: On February 18, 2008, James Sargent and Tracy Hermann were charged with two counts of First Degree Murder for the death of their 5 month old son who was found deceased in their home at 3012 W. Proctor Street February 12, 2008. 

James Sargent and Tracy Hermann have both been charged with two counts of First Degree Murder. 

Schedule of Events:

01/12/09 09:00a.m. Jury Trial

01/02/09 09:00a.m. Scheduling Conference

11/17/08 09:00a.m. Jury Trial (Date vacated)

11/07/08 09:00a.m.  Scheduling Conference (Date vacated)

10/09/08 01:00p.m.  Motion Hearing

08/04/08 09:00a.m. Jury Trial (Date vacated)

07/25/08 09:00a.m. Scheduling Conference

05/12/08 09:00a.m. Jury Trial (Date vacated)

05/02/08 09:00a.m. Scheduling Conference

03/06/08 Public Defender Appointed

03/06/08 01:15p.m. Arraignment  (Defendants Both Plead NOT GUILTY)

03/04/08 Case Assigned to Judge

02/22/08 2:30p.m. Motion Hearing

02/20/08 Public Defender Appointed

02/20/08 3:00p.m. Bonding Court (Defendants Held with No Bond)

Peoria County Courthouse, Courtroom 222, 324 Main Street, Peoria, Judge James E. Shadid presiding

People You’ll See In Hell has a simple question for you, a question that James Sargent and Tracey Hermann answered for the world during the month of February, 2008.

How long can you ignore a screaming baby?

Some people have the ability to deal with the noise that a screaming baby calls forth from the pits of Hell for a longer period of time than others can.

Some people, those who are actually partially human, will actually get up and look at the baby to see what’s going on.

Those people typically want to find out why the baby is crying, so they can stop it.

They go through the usual checklist:

Is the baby hungry?
Is it thirsty?
Is it wet?
Is something eating the baby?
We here at People You’ll See In Hell know from experience that we can handle a crying baby for 42 minutes - precisely the amount of time it takes to drive from Omaha, Nebraska to Lincoln, Nebraska - pressing down on the gas pedal more and more as the crying continues.

After 42 minutes with a fed, dry, clean but cranky baby, we were ready to push our faces through a screen door. The more motherly of the van’s occupants attempted every ruse they knew to distract the baby, while the helpless males in the vehicle grit their teeth and thought happy thoughts.

Eight hours with a crying baby? Unthinkable.

Well, how about eight days?

On the 4th of February, 2008, at 9:30 at night, Rose Sargent dropped off her 5-month-old grandson, Benjamin Sargent, with his father, James Sargent.

According to Rose Sargent:

I left at 9:30 p.m. that night. I got him ready for bed, changed his diaper, put some ointment on his bottom and gave him a bottle. He wanted to be rocked so I rocked him, gave him some more bottle and then his dad put him into the crib without the car seat, and covered him up with a blanket. Then I left because I had to go home and get to sleep because I work third shift.

Rose Sargent might have some problems recognizing reality. She remembers Benjamin Sargent being a happy, laughing baby that would frequently reach out for her.

We would guess that, because Benjamin Sargent weighed just 10 pounds at the age of 5 months, he was laughing as he reached for her because he thought she might actually give him something to eat.

Yes, that’s right. A 5-month-old baby weighed all of 10 pounds and nobody really thought anything of it.

Benjamin Sargent’s mother, Tracey Hermann, wasn’t around when the baby was dropped off, and from statements she’s made to the police, even if she was there, she might not have noticed that the baby was back.

According to authorities, Tracey Hermann didn’t want Benjamin. Tracey Hermann wanted to give Benjamin up for adoption, and refused to do anything that mothers typically do with their children - taking no part in the feeding, bathing, or changing of Benjamin Sargent.

She didn’t play with him.

She didn’t talk with him.

She didn’t hold him.

That could be part of the reason why Benjamin Sargent gained only 2 pounds since birth.

Anyways, so there we have a painfully thin baby, strapped into a car seat that’s been placed on the floor in the living room. He was wearing a blue snow suit that his grandmother had bought him. He was probably hungry and tired. He probably cried, because that’s what babies do when they’re upset.

But nobody came to take care of Benjamin.

Oh, there was a person living in the garage that came into the house at one point and - thinking that it was weird that the baby was still sitting in the car seat in the middle of the living room floor - moved the baby (who was still in the car seat) into a back room, but that’s really the last time anyone did anything for the baby.

So Benjamin Sargent sat.

And sat.

And sat.

For eight days.

Eight days without food. Eight days without water. Eight days without being changed, or being held, or being talked to.

At five months, most babies can’t do anything other than cry. You have to wonder how long Benjamin Sargent cried. Was it a few hours before he gave up? He couldn’t have been very strong, after all, and crying is exhausting. Or did Benjamin Sargent cry for longer than that, off and on, hoping beyond hope that someone would come and take care of him, help him…save him?

James Sargent and Tracey Hermann were both at home. They played some video games. They watched some television. They ate, showered and slept. They probably changed their clothes a few times.

They went about their lives while their son, their helpless son, went about the long process of dying in the next room.

When police finally arrived, they found Benjamin strapped into his car seat, which had been placed into a crib. His little eyes were open. His little fists were clenched. The temperature of the room Benjamin was in was 80 degrees and he was still wearing the snow suit. It was obvious that he hadn’t been changed, as he was sitting in his own bodily wastes - and had been for some time.

There are times when we are very, very happy that we are not police officers.

James Sargent and Tracey Hermann were arrested.

Police interviewed James Sargent. James initially told the authorities that he had moved Benjamin a few times, but later admitted that maybe he hadn’t moved his son at all.

According to the interview with Tracey Hermann, she came into the baby’s room on the seventh night, the night before police were called. She told authorities that she looked at the baby, thought he was sleeping and left a bottle resting between the baby and the side of the car seat. Tracey Hermann said that she figured when Benjamin woke up, he could just grab the bottle and feed himself. She didn’t really much care, because she was heading out to Iowa that night to meet up with a guy she had met on the Internet. According to Tracey Hermann, Benjamin was not her problem, and that James Sargent should have taken care of the baby.

James Sargent and Tracey Hermann have been charged with first-degree murder. They could potentially be hit with prison terms of up to 100 years if they’re found guilty. The possibility of the death penalty is still on the table.

Both James Sargent and Tracey Hermann have pled not guilty.

During her court appearance, it was noted that Tracey Hermann seemed annoyed that she had to deal with this whole murder charge thing, which was the same attitude she displayed when police interviewed her.


While James Sargent and Tracey Hermann are eligible for the death penalty in Illinois, they will not receive it. State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons has announced that he will not seek a capital case against the pair. According to Kevin Lyons, he wants Hermann and Sargent to live out their lives in state prison for their crime.

Sargent guilty on both counts in infant son's murder
Last update Apr 29, 2009 @ 04:18 PM

PEORIA — James Sargent was found guilty Wednesday afternoon on both counts in the neglect and death of his infant son last year and now faces up to 100 years in prison.

After closing arguments in the case wrapped up about 3:40 p.m., Judge James Shadid took a 10 minute recess and came back to render the verdit. He noted the heinous brutality of Sargent's actions, neglect that led to the death of 5-month-old Benjamin in February 2008.

During day three of the trial Wednesday, an exhausted and emotional Sargent told a Peoria police detective last year that he did everything he could but no one would help with his 5-month-old son, Benjamin, evidence presented Wednesday indicates.

However, Detective David Nelson wasn’t buying that line from the 24-year-old Sargent, saying “no, you tried up to a point and then stopped,” prompting more crying and sobs from Sargent.

The back and forth between the two was part of a nearly 2½-hour long video-taped statement given soon after police found the lifeless infant in a car seat in a crib. 

Peoria County prosecutors have accused Sargent and the boy’s mother,  Tracy Hermann, 22, both of 3012 W. Proctor St., of willfully allowing the child to go without food and water for a week. Hermann’s trial is set for mid-August. Both face up to 100 years in prison if convicted.

Closing arguments ended about 3:40 p.m. The prosecution said James Sargent had a “malignant heart in that he knew the baby was there He knew what to do. He didn’t forget about it, he just didnt do it.”
Prosecutor Donna Cruz pointed to a photo taken on Feb. 4, 2008 where the baby Benjamin had been out with his grandmother.

“Look at his chubby cheeks. Look at his chubby hand with a fat pad on the back. That’s what you would expect to find in a baby,” she said before putting up an autopsy photo. “By Feb. 12, this is what he looked like."
Defense attorney William Loeffel argued for the lesser charge of involuntary mansluaughter, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years as opposed to the potential 20 to 100 years the murder charge carries. Loefel said James Sargent was consumed with his relationship with Hermann breaking up..

“He was so preoccuupied with this that Ben just slipped his mind,” Loeffel said.
The attorney went on to point out that rather than having a “malignant heart” as prosecutors alleged, James Sargent was a grief-stricken father. The attorney conceded his client wasn’t likeable nor a good parent, yet he said that Sargent lacked the basic skills and never meant to kill Benjamin Sargent.
Prosecutor Nancy Mermelstein mocked that, saying “he had little grief for his child but a whole lot of self-pity for himself.”

The interview revealed Sargent was overwhelmed with the task of caring for the small boy. Hermann, he said, wanted little to do with changing diapers or feeding the baby. Sargent tearfully said he reached out to relatives, saying he needed a break but got no offers for help.

Nelson brought up state intervention as a possible solution but Sargent said on the tape that he didn’t want to give up his son to child welfare workers. Rather, he wanted a night out to unwind or “cool off.”

His demeanor in the videotape mirrored his actions in the courtroom on the third and likely final day of his murder trial. While not crying and making noise, Sargent, like in the tape, was emotional. In court, he wrapped his hands over his head, lowering his body to the table, trembling. In the video, he repeatedly talked about how he loved his son and missed him.

However, he did admit the boy hadn’t been bathed for at least nine days or one day after the child’s grandmother had taken him out to eat on Feb. 4. And Sargent said it was likely the boy spent nearly all of his time, after Feb. 4, in the same car seat he was found in.

Prosecutors rested their case shortly before lunch, after presenting the video and scores of graphic autopsy photos on Tuesday. Sargent’s defense, which has been proceeding at the same time as the state’s case, will likely consist of only more videotape from that February 2008 interview.
A few questions were apparently answered, though, by Sargent’s statements. The infant had been progressively well at his two-month checkup. It had been unclear what caused this to fail so tragically until Wednesday morning when Sargent said on the video the couple and the boy had been living with Hermann’s parents who were helping with the child-care duties.

Hermann and Sargent moved out when Benjamin was two months old, Sargent said on the tape.

Read more in Thursday’s Journal Star.


June 30,2009

Saying James Sargent showed a “complete and total lack of remorse” for the death of his son last year, a Peoria County judge on Friday sentenced him to the maximum of 100 years in prison.

Sargent, 24, showed little reaction and stared ahead as Circuit Judge James Shadid read his appeal rights. As he left the courtroom, he didn’t look back at his parents or the parents of his former girlfriend, Tracy Hermann, also facing murder charges for the February 2008 death of Benjamin Sargent.

Shadid said little beyond praising detectives for their work, and he didn’t lay out his reasoning for the sentencing, as he normally does, beyond noting various legalities, saying “facts speak for themselves.”

“I don’t believe that someone who would let a 5-month-old rot to death would benefit from (an explanation of the sentencing) or even deserves one,” he said.

Sargent had just finished a 20-minute speech where he indicated he was at peace but was concerned for the rest of society. Talking with a clear and enthusiastic voice, he related a story about a farmer coping with an impeding storm, a parable for Armageddon. His 15-page statement didn’t mention Benjamin, nor did it offer an apology.

It was the longest Sargent had spoken in public since his arrest, as he didn’t testify at trial.

Sargent was convicted in April of first-degree murder for the infant death (Original PYSIH Story). At that bench trial, Shadid also found the South Peoria man’s actions from Feb. 4 to Feb. 12, 2008, were “brutal and heinous . . . indicative of wanton cruelty,” factors which led to the enhanced sentence of up to 100 years.

After the sentencing, Thomas and Rosemary Sargent, James Sargent’s parents, were shocked and stunned with the decision. Both said they believed a sentence closer to the minimum of 20 years was more appropriate, considering their son will have to serve 100 percent of his time. Thomas Sargent looked saddened when he said that given his age, he would probably never seen his son free again.

Prosecutors Donna Cruz and Nancy Mermelstein argued that the infant’s diaper wasn’t changed for at least five days and possibly up to a week. He wasn’t bathed for about nine days. His last meal likely came three to four days before he was found, lifeless, on Feb. 12, 2008. Prolonged exposure to that unchanged diaper caused his skin to be eaten away and allowed bacteria to seep into his body, ultimately causing his death.

“It’s pretty difficult to think of a more horrendous series of events than those caused by the defendant,” Cruz said. “He took a defenseless 5-month-old, strapped him into a car seat, put him into a crib and left him there for days on end.

“This child suffered and suffered terribly,” Cruz said.

Hermann, 22, of 3012 W. Proctor St., will stand trial in October. She remains in custody at the Peoria County Jail.

The infant was an acceptable weight at his two-month checkup. It had been unclear what caused such a tragic turnaround until the bench trial, when Sargent said on a videotaped statement to police the couple and the boy had been living with Hermann’s parents, who were helping with the child-care duties. Sargent and Hermann moved out when Benjamin was about 2 months old.

Sargent’s attorney William Loeffel contended his client was mentally ill and suffered from a slew of problems, all of which contributed to his neglect of Benjamin. At trial, Shadid denied a request by Loeffel to present evidence about Sargent’s dissociative disorder, a condition in which he would assume a role from “The Lord of the Rings” and shut himself off from the real world. The attorney did argue that at the sentencing but to little avail.

James Sargent, he said, wasn’t a bad person and pointed to testimony from the Sargents and Hermann’s parents who all described him as caring and kind. His role models, they all said, were knights in shining armor, and he was the type of person who stood up for the underdog.

Loeffel also said Sargent had done an adequate job of providing child care to the infant until his relationship with Hermann fell apart. That, Loeffel said, sent his client into a rage in which he attacked furniture and a door with a sword from his collection. After that, he retreated into his fantasy world.

Mother receives 50 years for baby's death
23-year-old says murder sentence will allow 'justice' for her son
Last update Sep 14, 2009 @ 09:08 PM

PEORIA — Tracy Hermann admitted in a barely audible tone Monday she made a disastrous "mistake" last year when she and her former boyfriend allowed their 5-month-old son to go without food and sit in his own waste for several days, which eventually caused his death.

Hermann, 23, of 3012 W. Proctor St. apologized to everyone in the courtroom, saying she believed that her plea to first-degree murder and subsequent sentence of 50 years would allow her son, Benjamin, to finally have "justice."

She said little during the unscheduled plea hearing, speaking mostly from a prepared statement after Peoria County Circuit Judge James Shadid had passed sentence. Hermann will have to serve 100 percent of her sentence, meaning that with about a year and a half spent awaiting trial, she will get out of prison when she's 72.

Few were in the courtroom, save the parties involved, Hermann's parents and reporters. The hearing lasted only about 25 minutes and lacked the shock and the gruesome testimony that occurred in April when the infant's father, James Sargent, was found guilty after weeklong bench trial.

He was sentenced to 100 years in prison, the maximum, for his son's death.

Hermann's attorney, Thomas Penn Jr., declined to comment, as did Hermann's parents, who have been at all court hearings involving the couple since their arrest in mid-February 2008.

With her hair pulled back into a ponytail, Hermann looked younger than 23 and not like someone who was accused of acting in "brutal and heinous . . . indicative of wanton cruelty," legal factors which pushed her sentencing range up to 100 years.

Yet, the facts of the case proved shocking. Authorities found Benjamin's lifeless body, his eyes open, fists clenched and dried bubbly foam caked onto his mouth, in a car seat placed in his crib.

Reading from a seven-page statement, State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said the infant's diaper wasn't changed for at least five days and possibly up to a week. He wasn't bathed for about nine days. His last meal likely came three to four days before he was found, lifeless, on Feb. 12, 2008.

Prolonged exposure to that unchanged diaper caused his skin to be eaten away and allowed bacteria to seep into his body, causing his death.

One new bit of information was from a psychiatrist who had met with Hermann and Sargent in November 2006. At that time, the psychiatrist had warned Hermann that leaving another child of hers, then 14 month old, with Sargent unattended "wasn't a good idea."

Lyons said after the hearing that Hermann's sentence, half that of Sargent's, was something that both sides could live with, adding that Sargent had taken a risk by going to trial. In Hermann's case, she opted to plead guilty rather than risk a trial.

It was Sargent, not Hermann, who was the primary caretaker of Benjamin, Lyons said, noting that Hermann told police she was so stressed from working as a hostess at a local restaurant that she came home to "chill." Sargent was the one who fed and cared for the baby.

Sargent had his own issues, including the disintegration of his relationship with Hermann and his own mental problems, which included a dissociative disorder, a condition in which he would assume a role from "The Lord of the Rings" and shut himself off from the real world.


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