Karen Hooks, of Dover, pled guilty to abusing her 2-year-old son's corpse, lying to police twice as they investigated her son's whereabouts and for collecting state benefits for her dead son under false pretenses during a hearing held Friday morning at Kent County Courthouse in Dover.
A bailiff led Hooks into Courtroom No. 5 on the second floor of the courthouse wearing an orange, state Department of Corrections jump suit with her hair braided back and her wrists and ankles in shackles. There, she and her appointed public defender, Paul Swierzbinski, faced Superior Court of Delaware Judge James T. Vaughn in the matter of the State of Delaware vs. Karen Hooks.
Deputy Attorney General and Chief Kent County Prosecutor Kenneth Haltom and co-lead counsel Jason Cohee told Vaughn that Hooks faced a maximum of seven years in prison, and he asked Vaughn to order Hooks to pay $4,500 in restitution to the state after she collected state aid for her son despite his death.
The abuse of a corpse was a misdemeanor while the other three charges were felonies, Cohee said.
Hooks was then sworn in on the Holy Bible and faced Vaughn.
"You understand your guilt for all four offenses?" he said.
"Yes, sir," Hooks said.
"You understand this could result in seven years in prison?" Vaughn said.
"Yes, sir," Hooks said.
Vaughn asked a few more questions before he was satisfied that Hooks had pled guilty in sound mind and with no coercion.
He then set her sentencing for Jan. 15, 2013 in Superior Court.
Haltom then asked that Hooks continue to be held at the Delaware Department of Corrections in lieu of $100,00 bond. He also asked for a pre-sentence investigation, which would give Vaughn the ability to learn more about Hooks' character, not to mention receive letters from people writing on her behalf.
Swierzbinski did not dispute the bond.
Haltom also pointed out that the investigation into the death of Hooks' son as a possible murder was still ongoing.
"Further charges could be pending," he said.
"We understand that," Swierzbinski said.
After court proceedings, Haltom was asked about the belief that Hooks had been pregnant prior to her 2-year-old's son disappearance. He said that was part of the ongoing investigation but could not say anything on the record beyond that.
The Delaware State Police Homicide Unit arrested Hooks, of Squire Circle in Royal Grant Development, this past summer, Master Cpl. Gary E. Fournier said. Detectives began their investigation into a missing child complaint on July 9 after receiving information from the Delaware Division of Family Services that a pregnant woman was no longer pregnant and her 2-year-old child was missing.
Page 2 of 2 - On July 13, Hooks told investigators that her son, Justice, was in the care of a female friend in Smyrna, Fournier had said. She also denied the fact that she was ever pregnant.
Detectives determined that Hooks' story did not add up and, out of concern for Justice, obtained a search warrant on July 25 for the house on Squire Circle, Fournier said. During the search, a suspiciously wrapped package was located in a storage area shared by Hooks and another female roommate, he said.
The contents appeared to be human remains and were removed by officials from the Delaware Office of the Medical Examiner and transported to Georgetown for examination. A post-mortem was performed and it was determined that the remains were of a male child.
Hooks was arrested and taken back to Troop 3 where she was arraigned at Delaware Justice of the Peace No. 2 on the charge of Abusing a Corpse. She was committed to Delores J. Baylor Women's Correctional Institution in lieu of bail and has been held since.