Lehigh Valley

Teen who pleaded guilty in mother's killing appeals case

The Lehigh County teenager who pleaded guilty in the murder of her own mother, with the help of her adult boyfriend, is fighting for an appeal.

One year after Jamie Silvonek pleaded guilty in her mother Cheryl's 2015 murder, the Upper Macungie teen's defense attorney is fighting to get her a lesser sentence.

"The only issue we could argue at this point was to get her to juvenile court. That was our only appellate issue," said attorney John Waldron.

Silvonek was not present in the state superior courtroom in Philadelphia Tuesday, though he father and attorney were.

Waldron argued Silvonek, who is now 16, never belonged in adult court, and said a Lehigh County judge who made that decision relied on questionable testimony.

"Our experts were more believable than the commonwealth's. Since she had just turned 14, her brain wasn't fully developed and therefore she was impressionable.  She was impulsive, she made poor decisions," Waldron said.

Waldron argues Silvonek was blinded by her love for her 20-year-old Army boyfriend, Caleb Barnes, who is also charged in the killing, and never believed their conversations about killing her mom would ever come to fruition.

Prosecutors say it was Silvonek who was the sophisticated one and the mastermind.

A judge described Silvonek Tuesday as "extremely bright and manipulative" but lacking some maturity in regard to consequence.

The three-judge panel will decide in a few months if Silvonek should have been tried as a minor.

"If we lose here we would go to the Supreme Court," Waldron said.

Silvonek is currently serving a sentence of 35 years to life in prison. If her case is moved to juvenile court, she'd be released at age 21, Waldron said.

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