MS Coast woman sentenced for smothering 10-year-old boy and burning him with cigarette

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A George County woman is headed to prison for 10 years for burning a child and twice attempting to smother the child by either covering his face with a pillow or putting his head underwater, records show.

Ava Jean Keel, now 34, pleaded guilty last week in George County Circuit Court to three counts of felonious child abuse, which carries a sentence of between 5 years to life in prison on each county.

Judge Robert Krebs sentenced Keel to 20 years on each count, with 10 years to serve.

Krebs ordered the sentences to run concurrently, meaning Keel will serve 10 years in prison followed by post-release supervision. The judge fined her $750 and ordered her to pay $100 to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund along and all court costs.

As part of the plea, Keel admitted committing the crimes at different times between August and September 2017 on a then 10-year-old boy. She was a resident of Lucedale at the time.

In her plea petition, Keel only referenced burning the boy with a cigarette. She claims she was under the influence of drugs at the time she committed the crimes.

In addition to a prison sentence, the judge ordered that Keel undergo a complete psychiatric evaluation while she is in custody in the state Department of Corrections, with orders for state officials to provide her with any and all medication that should be given to Keel as a result of the examination.

Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Lewis prosecuted the case. Defense attorney David Futch represented Keel.

Ava Jean Keel
Ava Jean Keel
Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Lewis
Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Lewis