I’m hearing way too many child-death stories these days.
In one of the latest, 22-year-old Rachel Downer of Bemidji, MN, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and felony child neglect in the death of her 6-year-old cousin, Mercedes Mayfield late last month. Mayfield’s mother, Malika Peoples, found her daughter curled up on the front step wearing her winter coat, a hat, and her left boot. Her right boot and mittens were found on the step nearby.
According to charging documents, Downer promised Peoples that she’d babysit Mayfield while Peoples recovered from a work-related injury. Peoples took pain meds and turned in for the evening.
Downer originally planned to take Mayfield back to her apartment but changed her mind without notifying Peoples. Mayfield helped Downer carry her things to her car after the family ate dinner, then Downer says she watched the 6-year-old re-enter the building before she got in her car and drove off.
But it appears there is a dual-door system, with a main front door and an inner door. Downer told police that Mayfield closed the apartment’s safety door gently, so it wouldn’t lock her out.
But the door closed and Mayfield never made it all the way inside.
The reported temperature that night was -19F with a wind chill of -32. The medical examiner concluded that Mayfield died from hypothermia.
Downer told news reporters “I’m hurt right now. I’m going through a tough time right now. It’s like my whole life has been taken away from me because of this.”
Um, no. That would be Mercedes Mayfield’s whole life.
Downer is due back in court March 24. She is currently released on $100,000 bond and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.