A Minnesota woman had promised her aunt to look after her 6-year-old daughter while the woman recovered from an injury, but instead she left the girl outside to freeze to death, according to recently released court documents.
According to the Daily Mail, Rachel Stacey Downer, 22, appeared in Beltrami County court Monday on a second-degree manslaughter charge and was released on $100,000 bond. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
Downer’s 6-year-old cousin, Mercedes Mayfield, was found curled up on the front step of a Bemidji apartment building early Feb. 27 by Mercedes’ mother, Malika Peoples, who called 911 and reported her daughter was frozen and unresponsive.
Mercedes had a winter coat and hat on, with a boot on her left foot. Her boot and mittens were found on an outside step.
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The temperature that night dropped to 19 degrees below zero, with a below-32 wind chill.
Downer was supposed to take her cousin to her apartment to babysit her that evening, but changed her mind and didn’t tell Mercedes’ mother, according to the criminal complaint. Mercedes helped Downer carry her things to her car. Downer said she watched the girl go in to the building, then got in her car and drove off.
Downer claims Mercedes had shut the apartment’s safety door gently, so she wouldn’t get locked out.
It has not yet been revealed how many hours the first-grader spent outside from the time Downer left and until she was found lying unconscious.
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The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Downer is set to be back in court on March 24.
Following her release from jail, Downer addressed the incident in a KAAL-TV interview.
“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,” she told the station.