MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 23-year-old Bemidji woman convicted of manslaughter in the freezing death of her young cousin was sentenced this week to 10 years of probation.
The Beltrami County Attorney’s Office says Rachel Stacey Downer was going to spend the night at her aunt’s apartment on a bitterly cold night in February of 2014 because her aunt was on pain medication and needed someone to watch her children.
Downer said she was going to take her 6-year-old cousin, Mercedes Mayfield, home with her for the night, but changed her mind without telling her aunt, who had fallen asleep. Downer then had the girl help her bring items to her vehicle.
She claims she watched Mayfield go back inside the building before driving off, but Mayfield’s mother found her unresponsive on the front steps the next morning. Temperatures had fallen to the 20-below-zero range overnight. An autopsy showed that Mayfield had died of hypothermia.
Downer was found incompetent to stand trial in August of 2014, but that decision was reversed in early 2015. She pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in August of this year.