Wagner couple may be charged in toddler death under reporting lawAuthorities say girl's guardian failed to report her death in a timely manner; 12-year-old involved in case is guardian's son.
By: AP, The Associated Press
WAGNER — Prosecutors are considering using a new state law to charge the legal guardian of a slain 2-year-old rural Wagner girl and the woman’s husband with failing to promptly report the death to authorities.
A 12-year-old male cousin of the girl was taken into custody following her July Fourth death, which authorities have deemed a homicide. He has not been charged and is being held on a temporary custody order, said Charles Mix County State’s Attorney Pam Hein. She declined to elaborate, citing the boy’s age and the fact that if he is charged it will be in juvenile court, where proceedings are closed to the public.
The girl’s guardian, who is the boy’s mother, and her husband, who isn’t the father of either child, were being held on minor, unrelated charges, Hein told The Associated Press on Tuesday. She said she doesn’t think either adult has an attorney.
Hein said a “significant” number of hours passed before police were notified about the girl’s death. She said decisions on charges against the boy and the two adults hinge on autopsy results and reports from more than a dozen local and state law officers working the case.
“There’s a lot of speculation and a lot of rumor (and) we’re just trying to clear that up,” she said.
Authorities have not identified the adults or the children involved. Four other children who lived in the home were placed in protective custody, Hein said. Under a state law passed earlier this year, a parent or guardian who knowingly fails to report a child’s death within six hours could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison.
South Dakota’s new law is modeled after “Caylee’s Law,” which was passed in Florida in response to the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, who wasn’t reported missing until 31 days after she vanished in 2008 in Orlando. South Dakota’s law, which also makes failure to report a missing child within 48 hours a misdemeanor, has not yet been used, though there are “a few” open cases in the state where it might apply, Attorney General Marty Jackley said.