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Accused of trying to kill her baby, a Pittsfield woman is free after witnesses fail to appear

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Lynn M. Tobler, who prosecutors had accused of assault with intent to murder her 5-month-old child, saw all charges against her dropped this month after witnesses for the Berkshire District Attorney's Office failed to show up in court. 

PITTSFIELD — A woman who prosecutors had accused of trying to kill her 5-month-old child had all charges against her dropped earlier this month after witnesses failed to show up in court.

Lynn M. Tobler, 39, of Pittsfield, had been charged with assault with intent to murder in connection with the incident at her home in March 2020. The case was prosecuted by the Child Abuse Unit in the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office.

Tobler maintained her innocence throughout the ordeal, her attorney said.

But despite numerous attempts, authorities were unable to serve a summons to what prosecutors called a “critical essential witness.” Other witnesses were summonsed but declined to show up in Berkshire Superior Court on Nov. 1, the day the trial was scheduled to begin.

“The commonwealth is not ready for trial,” said Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Ilberg-Lamm, prompting the dismissal by Judge John Agostini.

The incident took place March 22, 2020, during a “family dinner” at Tobler’s home, according to a police report.

One of the guests, a 21-year-old woman, told police that when she arrived for the dinner she heard Tobler’s 5-month-old baby crying in a bedroom. She said she went inside the bedroom and saw Tobler “laying on the baby.”

Tobler screamed at the baby to stop crying, she told police. Tobler allegedly put her hand over the baby’s face, then “placed a pillow over the face of the baby,” the report said. “Ms. Tobler then grabbed the baby by the legs and the upper body and placed her knee into the back of the baby and pushed her knee against it several times, bending the child backwards.”

After the witness tried to intervene, Tobler tried to punch everyone in the room and refused to give anyone the child, the report said. The witness and three other people then left the home and called police.

When officers arrived, they found the infant face down on a bed. The baby was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where a nurse told police the baby appeared to be “OK” save for a bite mark on its knee “that appeared to be from a smaller child,” the report said.

Given the nature of the allegations, the baby was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield for further evaluation.

Two other people who were present confirmed the first witness’s account, the report said. Recorded statements were provided to police by the first witness and another woman who said she was at present at the time, but didn’t see what happened.

Tobler, who denied the allegations, was arrested and initially charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a pillow), reckless endangerment of a child and assault and battery.

After pleading not guilty at her arraignment in Central Berkshire District Court on March 23, 2020, Tobler was held without the right to bail at the request of prosecutors.

The District Attorney’s Office presented the case to a Berkshire Superior Court grand jury, which in late June indicted Tobler on four charges: assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a child under 14, reckless endangerment of a child, assault and battery and assault with intent to murder. She pleaded not guilty again on July 14, 2020.

Tobler was found to be “dangerous,” and by agreement of the prosecution and her defense was released before trial with orders to comply with a number of conditions, including that she stay away from her daughter, remain free of alcohol and unprescribed drugs and comply with mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Her bail was revoked in September 2020 for reasons that are unclear, but she was later released into a Holyoke residential treatment center for women with substance use and mental health disorders. Her bail was again revoked after testing positive for cocaine in violation of the terms of her release from that program.

In the meantime, her defense attorney, Joseph Zlatnik, and Ilberg-Lamm had been in discussions about resolving Tobler’s case through a plea deal. But ultimately, Tobler opted to go to trial.

Zlatnik said his client was “adamant” throughout the proceedings that she did not commit the crimes she was accused of.

“She was willing to risk going to jail to prove herself innocent,” he said.

But the matter didn’t get that far.

After Ilberg-Lamm conceded that she was not ready for trial, Zlatnik asked the judge to dismiss the charges with prejudice, meaning the state was barred from trying to charge Tobler again.

Tobler was free to go, as outbursts and sobs erupted in the courtroom.

{p dir=”ltr”}“You have no clue what I’ve gone through,” someone could be heard saying.

District Attorney Andrea Harrington on Friday lamented the outcome.

“It was a very serious charge,” she told The Eagle. But she noted the key witnesses were “friends and close to the defendant.”

“We wanted to have a trial; we wanted to have them testify, and they just could not be located,” she said. “The commonwealth has a burden to produce our witnesses on the day of trial, and the Pittsfield Police Department could not locate the witnesses.”

In an email, Pittsfield Police Lt. Gary Traversa said the department tried unsuccessfully six times to serve a summons to the witness — at four different addresses — between Sept. 2 and Nov. 1, 2021.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

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