Prosecutors: Mom Found 6-Year-Old Unconscious after Niece Left

Updated: 03/17/2014 10:59 PM
Created: 03/14/2014 5:36 PM

Beltrami County prosecutors say the 6-year-old girl who died of hypothermia last month was found unconscious on the front step of her apartment building by her mother, who had left the girl in the care of her 22-year-old niece.

Rachel Stacey Downer of Bemidji is charged with second-degree manslaughter in the Feb. 27 death of Mercedes Mayfield, her cousin.  According to a criminal complaint, Mayfield's mother was taking medication due to a work-related injury and told investigators she thought Downer was going to spend the night at her apartment to help care for Mayfield and her 3-year-old sibling.

Mayfield's mother told investigators she woke to her alarm at 6 a.m. on Feb. 27, found her apartment empty, and called Downer to ask why she had taken Mayfield to her apartment on a school night.  The mother said Downer told her she had not taken Mayfield home and the mother then saw the girl on the front steps, according to the complaint.  She pulled her inside the entryway and called 911.

Officers who arrived at the scene described Mayfield as being stiff, frozen, and unresponsive.  She was pronounced dead at the scene.  She was wearing a winter coat, hat, and one boot, with another boot and mittens on the step.

Preliminary autopsy results showed that Mayfield died of hypothermia due to hypothermic conditions.

According to the complaint, Downer told investigators that she had told Mayfield's mother she was going to take the girl to her apartment but changed her mind and didn't tell the girl's mother.  She said the girl had helped load her car and that she watched Mayfield enter the building before leaving.

Downer was arrested Friday. She appeared in Beltrami County court Monday and was released on $100,000 bond.

The Star Tribune reports Downer is due back in court March 24.

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Rachel Downer

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