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Foster mom sentenced in girl’s death

Joy Ann Heaven

Joy Ann Heaven, 31, of Gaines Township, was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison last week in the death of a Cedar Springs girl.

Emily Meno, 5, died of a brain injury last summer after Heaven, her foster mother, hit her with something hard. She entered a no-contest plea last month on a felony murder charge, just as her trial was about begin.

Circuit Court Judge Mark Trusock delivered the sentence, and told Heaven that Emily’s death “was not an accident,” but “an intentional and violent act.”

“(It was) more likely out of frustration, but because of you, this little girl will not be able to grow up and know her sister,” Trusock said, speaking of her twin sister Tiffany. “She will not be able to grow up and go to school and have a family, nor will she be able to enjoy holidays. What you did was violently kill an innocent 5-year-old child.”

Emily Meno

Both Emily and Tiffany were special needs children, and Heaven’s first placement as a foster mom. Tiffany has since been placed in a new foster home.

Emily is the daughter of Lori Meno, of Cedar Springs, and Carl Meno, of Sand Lake.

This is not the first heart-wrenching loss that Lori Meno has suffered. On August 17, 2009, her oldest daughter, April Sue Kirtley, 10, was killed when a drunk driver hit her father’s vehicle head-on after he had picked her up for visitation.

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Foster mom pleads no contest in death of Cedar Springs girl

Joy Ann Heaven

A foster mother from Gaines Township pled no contest to second degree murder Monday in the death last summer of a 5-year-old Cedar Springs girl.

Joy Ann Heaven, 30, entered the plea Monday just as her trial on a felony murder charge in the death of 5-year-old Emily Meno was about to begin. She had refused a similar plea deal last August.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, Heaven called 911 on Thursday, July 15 and reported that 5-year-old Emily, her foster daughter, was unresponsive. Emily was transported to Spectrum Butterworth and put on life support. She died two days later.

An autopsy determined that the cause of death was a sub-dural hematoma with bi-lateral retina hemorrhaging, and was ruled a homicide.

Emily Meno

After the autopsy, she admitted to police that she was frustrated with Emily for wetting her pants and being in her way, and that at about 8 p.m. she shoved Emily really hard. She told them that Emily flew through the air with her feet off the ground and landed on her head in the kitchen. She was unconscious for several seconds, but she was able to get Emily to wake up and sent her to bed. Around 10 p.m., Emily got out of bed and threw up, and then fell to the ground unresponsive. Heaven tried to revive her and called 911 when Emily wouldn’t wake up.

Emily and her twin sister, Tiffany, both special needs children, were removed from their Cedar Springs home in February and put into foster care. Tiffany has since been moved to another foster home.

Heaven reportedly worked with Bethany Christian Services, and this was her first foster experience.

A no contest plea is not a guilty plea but is treated as such for sentencing. Prosecutors agreed to a minimum sentence of 15 to 35 years in prison on the charge. Heaven will be sentenced in March.

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