Folds will testify against Roland at his murder trial
5-year plea agreement approved for Folds in exchange for her testimony
By Carrie A. Mizell
Tears streamed down the face of Chelsi Folds as she listened to the grandparents of Kristina Hepp tell Circuit Judge David Glant that they held her just as responsible for the murder of the 4-year-old girl as they did the girl’s own father, Matthew Roland.
“I don’t believe for a second she didn’t know what happened inside that house,” said Betty Lynn DeJarnette, maternal grandmother of Kristiana Hepp. “She worked everyday; she could have called someone … I hold Chelsi just as responsible as I do Matt.”
DeJarnette was one of a handful of family members who sent letters to the judge and/or spoke in court last Thursday in an effort to dissuade Judge Glant from accepting a plea agreement worked out between Folds’ attorney William Salmon and the State Attorney’s Office.
Folds was arrested shortly after her boyfriend, Matthew Roland, was arrested and charged in the brutal death of his daughter, Kristina Hepp, on April 27.
The State of Florida is seeking the death penalty for Roland, who allegedly physically abused his daughter to the point that she died.
Despite the urging of family members, Judge Glant ultimately accepted the plea agreement, though he did not withhold adjudication of guilt, which means that a felony count of Child Neglect with Great Harm will forever appear on Folds’ record.
“We have competing issues here … The family is seeking DOC [Department of Corrections] time, but the State has entered into this plea agreement based on what they need to have to establish ultimate guilt in this case,” Judge Glant said.
Included in the plea agreement of five years state probation for Folds are numerous special conditions: Folds must undergo a mental health evaluation within the next 60 days that is acceptable to the state and the defense. Her confidentiality on these mental health evaluations must be waived. She must undergo therapy if the evaluation indicates that there is a need. Folds can have no contact with a minor child until approved by the court. Anytime Folds is called to give testimony under oath she must do so and her testimony must be truthful, specifically regarding this case. She can have no contact with the family of Kristina Hepp or with Matthew Roland. She has to pay restitution of $8,238 to Michael and Jamie Gordon to reimburse them for Kristina’s funeral expenses. Folds also has to pay $595 in court costs as well as $10 per month for supervision from a probation officer.
Judge Glant told Folds that he had no doubt about the genuineness of her remorse.
“We make our own decisions in life,” Glant said to Folds. “We can control our decisions, but not the consequences.”
Kristina Hepp’s mother Elizabeth Brown expressed the same sentiment when she addressed the court by telephone. Brown lives out of state, but wanted to take part in the sentencing.
“There is no excuse for what she did or did not do,” Brown said. “Five years on probation is not enough! Kristina paid with her life. Is probation really all her life is worth?”
Despite the statement by Andrew Hepp, who was Kristina’s maternal grandfather that “9-1-1 was all it would have taken” to save Kristina’s life, Folds’ attorney William Salmon said in closing that Matthew Roland physically prevented Folds from having any contact with the child on the night that she died. He also said that Folds was abused by Roland and that she tried to escape from the “monster” numerous times to get help, but he physically prevented her from getting away. As Salmon said, “There is no question that Chelsi is the most important witness to see that justice is done for this family.”