Special Reports

Melissa Jenkins, Daniel Ehrlick plead not guilty in Robert Manwill's murder

Daniel Ehrlick Jr. and his girlfriend, Melissa Scott Jenkins, appeared in an Ada County Courtroom in Boise Wednesday Aug. 19, 2009 for an arraignment hearing. Ehrlick and Jenkins were arrested on Tuesday Aug. 18, 2009 on first-degree murder charges in the death of Jenkins' 8-year-old son Robert Manwill.
Daniel Ehrlick Jr. and his girlfriend, Melissa Scott Jenkins, appeared in an Ada County Courtroom in Boise Wednesday Aug. 19, 2009 for an arraignment hearing. Ehrlick and Jenkins were arrested on Tuesday Aug. 18, 2009 on first-degree murder charges in the death of Jenkins' 8-year-old son Robert Manwill. Shawn Raecke / Idaho Statesman

Melissa Jenkins and Daniel Ehrlick Jr. stood silent Thursday when asked if they planned to enter pleas to charges of first-degree murder in connection with the beating death of Jenkins' 8-year-old son Robert Manwill in July.

Standing silently triggers an automatic plea of not guilty, which could mean a jury trial, though it likely won't occur until summer 2010 at the earliest.

Ehrlick is accused of beating the boy to death. Jenkins is accused of covering up the crime and lying to police about what happened.

The next hearing in the case is set for Nov. 5, when a trial date likely will be set. By then, prosecutors will have to make a decision on whether or not to pursue the death penalty against either Jenkins or Ehrlick.

Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jill Longhurst estimated a trial would take about 3 to 4 weeks and asked for an April 2010 trial date.

Rob Chastain, Jenkins' attorney, said he thought a June trial date would be better, but said he wouldn't be able to make any real estimates until the issue of the death penalty was resolved. Prosecutors have until the middle of October to make that decision.

An Ada County grand jury indicted and charged Jenkins and Ehrlick with first-degree murder Aug. 18.

The grand jury found that 8-year-old Robert Manwill was beaten by Ehrlick for weeks in a pattern of "escalating physical violence" that climaxed in his death, according to court records.

Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said the boy died from blunt force trauma "on or about" July 24 - the night he was reported missing and the community launched a two-week search that ended in sorrow when his body was found in the New York Canal between Boise and Kuna.

Patrick Orr: 373-6619

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