The 11-year-old Chippewa Falls girl accused of killing a six-month-old infant last fall is still considered incompetent to stand trial, keeping the murder case filed against her in limbo.
The girl was given a competency review by Dr. Michael Hammer in late August, which showed the girl has actually shown some regression in her mental capacity, said Dunn County Judge James Peterson, who is presiding over the case.
“The defendant is not competent to proceed,” prosecuting attorney Richard Dufour told Peterson during a court hearing Wednesday in Chippewa County Court.
Defense attorney Laurie Osberg noted the state has now filed a fourth criminal complaint in the case, with the most recent filing increasing the charge to first-degree intentional homicide, a Class A felony.
The attorneys once again discussed whether the girl is competent enough to waive a preliminary hearing, even though she has been found incompetent to stand trial. Osberg said she believes the girl is now able to understand a preliminary hearing. The girl, who has been incarcerated at Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh since March 5, made the trip to Chippewa Falls on Tuesday, allowing her to get a good night’s rest and meet with her attorneys.
“We believe she is refreshed and ready,” Osberg said.
However, Dufour contends that you can’t be competent for one type of hearing but incompetent for another.
The girl will continue to receive quarterly mental health evaluations to see if she becomes competent. Another court hearing was scheduled for Oct. 11. Peterson said he would address at that hearing if she can waive the preliminary hearing, even if she is still not competent.
Before concluding the hearing, Peterson turned and spoke directly to the girl, asking her to do her best to interact with her attorneys and be engaged in her own defense.
“It’s very important you do participate,” Peterson told her. “I know it may be difficult for you.
But you need to communicate with your attorneys, and show that you understand the case, and understand what you allegedly did.” Peterson said state law makes it unclear in how they proceed.
“I can’t imagine that this scenario was contemplated,” Peterson said. “There is not a statute or a work-around for that type of (preliminary) hearing.”
Peterson added: “The path of the law doesn’t get us through the woods, so to speak.”
Defense attorney Michael Steuer requested that the girl be removed from an adult care unit at Winnebago Mental Health Institute and transferred to a juvenile care unit. Peterson agreed to that change. Osberg said she would like to see the girl then be allowed to be moved to a juvenile unit closer to the Chippewa Valley, to be closer to her family and cut down on the lengthy travel for hearings.
Osberg also requested that Peterson have the state turn over documents, including autopsy reports, so they can begin preparing her defense, if and when she does become competent.
The girl is accused of stomping on the head of 6-month-old Jaxon Hunter on Oct. 30, 2018, causing his death two days later. She was 10 years old at the time.
Jaxon was born April 6, 2018. He was at a day care, which also serves as a foster home, in the town of Tilden on Oct. 30 when the girl — who lived there as a foster child — was alone inside the house while everyone else was playing outside. The girl told authorities she panicked after dropping the baby, and then she stomped on his head when he began to cry.
Jaxon was transferred to a hospital in Minnesota, where he died Nov. 1, two days after the attack.
The girl appeared in Chippewa County’s adult court Nov. 5, and she was previously charged with first-degree reckless homicide, which is a Class B felony, with a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision.
The Class A felony she now faces carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. She was ordered to be held on a $50,000 cash bond and be placed in a secure detention center.