Man pleads guilty to killing infant

MOUNDSVILLE — The person charged with fatally shaking his infant to death entered a guilty plea to three counts Wednesday, and he now faces potentially decades behind bars.

Daniel Messner, 28 of McMechen, entered an Alford plea to charges of voluntary manslaughter, child abuse resulting in death, and malicious assault. An Alford plea indicates that Messner denies the charges, but admits that he would likely be found guilty at trial. The hearing was presided over by judge Jeff Cramer.

In 2019, Messner shook 86-day-old Christian Messner, causing injuries that would later cause the infant’s death. Prosecutor Joe Canestraro said the first two charges carry a three-to-15-year sentence, and two to 10 years for the malicious assault.

Canestraro added that the manslaughter charge is a determinate sentence, which can’t be reduced by parole or other factors, and that Messner was remanded to prison to await his sentencing, which remains to be scheduled.

“Because he was pleading to a crime of violence against a person, he was remanded,” Canestraro said. “… When he’s released from prison, he would have to register as an abusive and neglectful parent for 10 years, and he’s subject for up to 50 years of supervised release upon his release from prison, as well, for pleading to child neglect.”

Canestraro said the quick thinking of sheriff’s deputy Nate Klempa and first responders allowed a heartbeat to be restored to the infant Messner, which in turn kept him alive long enough for his organs to be donated, saving lives.

“(Christian) was only 86 days old when he was pronounced dead,” Canestraro said. “Because of the efforts of Deputy Klempa and EMS, when they arrived on scene, they were able to get a pulse back, although he was unresponsive. … Because they got a pulse back, they were able to get him on a ventilator, his heart went to a child in Cincinnati, his kidneys went to an adult somewhere else.”

The length of time between Messner’s initial arrest and his Wednesday plea was due to the collection of medical records and the full autopsy report, as Messner’s case was expected to go to trial. He was represented by Michael Baum and Tom White.

Published reports from immediately after Messner’s arrest indicate that Christian Messner suffered a possible skull fracture and internal brain bleeds after his father shook the child on Nov. 18, 2019, which ultimately killed the child three days later.


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