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Mother Accused of Murder Released from Jail

December 30th, 2008

Donna Prentice, 61, has recently been released from the Orange County Jail after her second mistrial caused the presiding judge to dismiss her case. Prentice, who has spent four years in jail, had been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for allegedly murdering her 3-year old daughter, Michelle Pulsifer, nearly 40 years ago.

While the jury in her first trial deadlocked 10 to 2 (in favor of conviction) back in 2007, Prentice’s most recent trial, which culminated two weeks ago, again ended in mistrial, with 11 to 1 jurors in favor of acquittal on the indictment of second-degree murder.

On the lesser count of involuntary manslaughter, the second jury deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of convicting Prentice.

Details of Michelle’s Disappearance, Prentice’s Alleged Crimes

In 1969, Michelle vanished after Richard Jr., one of Prentice’s sons, witnessed his mother taking Michelle out of his room. According to Richard Jr., who was 6-years old at the time, Michelle appeared to be scared and had come into his room to hide.

Sometime between this incident and the following morning Michelle vanished.

Two days after Michelle’s disappearance, Prentice and her boyfriend at the time, James Kent, moved with their two sons to Illinois. Richard Jr. has stated that Prentice told the boys that they were leaving Michelle behind because there wasn’t enough room in the car to take her. However, the family’s pet cats and dogs were taken in the move.

No Criminal Investigation for Decades

Prentice, who had sole custody of Michelle, never filed a missing person’s report with authorities. Consequently, no investigation was conducted immediately after Michelle’s disappearance.

During the next few decades, Michelle’s father, Richard Pulsifer Sr., tried incessantly to get Prentice to disclose the location of his daughter. Eventually, in 2001, Richard Sr.’s sister hired a private detective to locate Michelle.

When the investigator failed to find any evidence of Michelle past 1969, he turned the case over to authorities.

Prentice’s Defense

Prentice has contended that she:

  • Gave Michelle to Kent’s mother in 1969
  • Never tried to locate Michelle when Kent’s mother died in 1972
  • Had been afraid to look for Michelle after divorcing Kent, as he was abusive and she feared for her life if she tried to locate her daughter

While Kent, who was also brought up on charges of killing Michelle, died in custody in 2005, Prentice will not face another trial for her alleged crimes, as the judge ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the charges against Prentice.

(Source: LA Times)

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