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Bemidji Woman Found Incompetent In Freezing Death

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(credit: Bemidji Police)

(credit: Bemidji Police)

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BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) — A Bemidji woman who allegedly allowed her 6-year-old cousin to freeze to death has been deemed incompetent to stand trial, a prosecutor said Monday.

Rachel Stacey Downer, 22, was charged with manslaughter in March in the death of Mercedes Mayfield, who was found curled up on the front step of a Bemidji apartment building on a subzero morning in February.

According to the complaint, Downer was going to take her cousin home to baby-sit that night but told police she changed her mind once they got outside. She said she thought Mercedes then went back inside. She didn’t tell the girl’s mother, who she said had gone to bed early after taking pain medication for an injury she suffered at work.

The mother, Malika Peoples, spotted her daughter on the front step the next morning. While the girl was dressed in a winter coat and hat, an autopsy determined she died of hypothermia due to the extreme cold.

Beltrami County Attorney Tim Faver said neither side disputed during a hearing Monday the findings of a psychologist who concluded that Downer was not competent. He said an initial commitment hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. The purpose of commitment would be to restore Downer to competency, and the facility would have to report to the court every six months on her progress, he said.

“Hopefully at some point she will be declared competent and the case can move forward to a conclusion,” Faver said.

Faver said he wasn’t sure of the reasons Downer was deemed incompetent because he isn’t the prosecutor on the case, but that the information probably would be confidential anyway.

Minnesota court rules say a defendant is incompetent to stand trial if he or she lacks the ability to understand the proceedings or participate in the defense due to mental illness or deficiency.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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