Child abuse case heads to circuit court

ESCANABA — A 22-year-old Escanaba man charged with first-degree child abuse following an investigation into suspicious injuries to his infant earlier this year, was bound over from Delta County District Court to circuit court on Monday.

Jerry Jay Munger III waived his right to a preliminary hearing in district court, automatically binding over the first-degree child abuse charge, a life felony, to the higher court where a date may be scheduled for him to make a plea or be tried by a jury.

Munger was arrested on Jan. 29 following investigations by Escanaba Public Safety and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) into serious injuries to his 8-month-old son who was taken to OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital for emergency medical care on Jan. 26.

According to hospital records, Munger and his girlfriend, Melisah Marie Jenkins, 21, brought their son to the hospital for a cough and swelling on the child’s left side of his face.

After diagnosing the boy with a black eye, a fractured skull and bruises on his body in various stages of healing, hospital personnel suspected child abuse and notified police and health officials. The child was transferred to St. Vincent Children’s Hospital in Green Bay for further evaluations and is currently under the care of a licensed foster home in Marquette County.

Munger remains lodged in jail in lieu of a $650,000 bond. Since his arrest, on March 2 he pleaded no contest and voluntarily gave up his parental rights to his son, which were officially terminated in Delta County Probate Court which serves as the family division of circuit court.

On that date, Probate Court Referee Perry Lund reviewed evidence of severe physical abuse as legal grounds for the court to take jurisdiction over Munger’s son and take away his parental rights. A children protective services specialist at DHHS testified, in addition to the child’s injuries, the family home was not fit for the child and both parents failed to reach out to services which DHHS had offered them.

Lund determined the child’s injuries were caused by intentional acts by the father at different times and the child would be at risk of further injury if returned to the father. Judge Robert Goebel Jr. signed the document executing the order to terminate Munger’s parental rights in the best interest of the child.

Jenkins, who has not been charged criminally, is scheduled to appear in probate court on March 21 for a continued preliminary hearing on the termination of her parental rights. She has the option to enter a plea or schedule a civil trial in probate court.

According to police and DHHS interviews with Munger and Jenkins, each parent accused the other of physically abusing their infant while each admitted to not protecting the child from the other parent’s harm.