Prosecutors allege mother drowned 8-year-old daughter

Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin (Source: West Frankfort Police Dept.)
Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin (Source: West Frankfort Police Dept.)
Alexus Smothers, 8, was found dead in the basement of this West Frankfort home on July 19.
Alexus Smothers, 8, was found dead in the basement of this West Frankfort home on July 19.
Alexus Smothers
Alexus Smothers
Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin
Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin

WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) - BENTON, IL (KFVS) -Franklin County State's Attorney Evan Owens filed a first degree murder charge against 28-year-old Mary Zumwalt Jophlin in the death of her 8-year-old daughter in West Frankfort.

In court paper work the state alleges Zumwalt Jophlin used her hands, water, another object or a combination of both to kill Alexus Smothers last month.

On Wednesday in court, Zumwalt Jophlin's attorney asked her hearing be continued, since he learned late Tuesday the state filed the charge of murder. The judge granted the request.

Throughout it all, Zumwalt Jophlin kept her head down, only to look up briefly to address her attorney.

Meanwhile family and friends looked on.  Her sister says she doesn't believe Zumwalt Jophlin is guilty.

"I can look at her straight in the face," Jennifer Gaskin, Zumwalt Jophlin's sister said.  "She can look at me straight in the face and tell me she did not kill my niece. I don't think she's capable of that. She loved my niece, she loved all her kids."

Police found Zumwalt Jophlin's 8-year-old daughter, Alexus Smothers, in a basement crawl space of her West Frankfort home last month. Smothers was discovered after her mother called 911 to report the child missing. Zumwalt Jophlin has been in jail since.

Meanwhile the child's aunt, Lisa Jophlin, tells Heartland News it is a relief to hear the state filed a murder charge. She added her family now wants justice.

Zumwalt Jophlin is set to be back in court in late September. Her bond is set at $2 million.

Copyright 2011 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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