The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 25, 2013

Mom appeals state prison sentence following death of her young daughter

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — The mother of a 1-year-old girl who died from hyperthermia after being left alone in a hot room for nearly an entire day in 2010 is appealing her 12- to 60-month state prison sentence.

Heidi S. Yocum, 30, of Lewisburg, had expected to receive probation for pleading guilty to misdemeanor endangering the welfare of children and was stunned when Northumberland County Judge Charles H. Saylor imposed a state sentence of up to five years on Jan. 14 for her role in the death of her child, Aneela Loner.

In court papers filed by Williamsport attorney Edward “E.J.” Rymsza, Yocum is petitioning the court to vacate or modify her sentence or withdraw her plea because Saylor did not allow the prosecutor to speak up about her assistance in the investigation or the county probation department’s recommendation she receive five years of probation.

Yocum had left her daughter at her Sunbury home with the child’s father, Lopaka Loner, and maternal grandmother, Bertha M. Dreese, 65, of Selinsgrove, on Oct. 15, 2010. The next morning, after being left unattended in a small room with a space heater, Aneela was found dead. Authorities said temperatures in the room ranged between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Loner, 29, was sentenced in November by President Judge Robert B. Sacavage to 11½ to 23 months in Northumberland County Prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanors of endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.

Dreese, who has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

In Yocum’s post-sentence motion, Rymsza said he believes Dreese will receive house arrest in exchange for her plea.

In contrast, he argues, Yocum received the stiffest penalty for endangering the welfare of children despite cooperating with authorities that led to charges against Dreese and Loner and the probation department’s recommendation for probation.

“In short, she received nothing in return for her plea,” the motion said.