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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The father of a young girl whose decomposed body was found in a crib at their Ohio apartment will ask a judge for leniency when he's sentenced on Friday on charges including corpse abuse, tampering with evidence and drug abuse.
Relatives and friends submitted about two dozen letters pleading for mercy for Eric Warfel. They describe the 35-year-old as a gentle, protective father who was devastated when his infant daughter died in 2013 and couldn't cope when another daughter died last summer.
A cable company worker found the body of 21-month-old Ember Warfel in a Medina apartment last July. Warfel told investigators that she had died about a month earlier.
Medical examiners couldn't determine a cause of death because of decomposition, but did find traces of cocaine in her hair samples. Warfel's attorney has said that Ember was born with severe medical problems.
The 2013 death of his 5-month-old daughter, Erin, had been ruled a "sudden unexplained infant death."
A report from a psychologist who evaluated Warfel last August said he recounted how he had tried to revive Erin and indicated that he regretted describing her death to his eldest daughter — now 8 — as God having taken her sister. When Warfel found Ember dead, he couldn't face the circumstances and didn't know how he would tell his surviving daughter and others, "so he left to try to come to terms with the situation, but the longer he delayed, the more immobilized he became," the psychologist wrote.
He had signs of depression and cocaine addiction, and attributed his actions to "being unable to face again dealing with all that occurs when a youngster dies," the psychologist said.
In letters to the judge, supporters said Warfel was devastated by Erin's death, but tried to be a supportive figure to his family while still dealing with his own grief.
"To find Ember must have felt like the world imploding, again," one friend wrote.
Supporters said Warfel's had made questionable choices — in marrying and then divorcing the girls' mother, who they said had addiction and other troubles, and then in his own drug use and in not reporting Ember's death — but they urged the judge to order treatment and therapy instead of several years in prison. His lawyer noted that he has no criminal history.
Prosecutors have argued that Warfel didn't report the death because he didn't want an autopsy performed.
Authorities initially alleged that trash in the girl's room was meant to hide the smell, but Warfel's attorney said that wasn't true and Warfel denied trying to cover up the body.
Warfel was arrested while he and his surviving daughter were at a mall near Cleveland. He said they were living at a motel, and investigators found cocaine in his room, police said.
Warfel initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but was found competent to stand trial and was convicted on charges including child endangering. He didn't testify.