Saturday, November 22, 2008

Indiana mother charged in 2007 death of daughter with Down syndrome

From the Indianapolis Star:

LEBANON, Ind. -- The death certificate says 14-year-old Brittany Fairfield, who had Down syndrome, died last year from a drug overdose.

But neither police nor prosecutors believe it was an accident -- and the person they think was responsible is her own mother, Elizabeth A. Fairfield, 38, who was charged Friday with murder.

Police and prosecutors, however, are refusing to discuss why they think Fairfield caused her daughter's death or just what they think she did.

"They (the prosecutor's office) don't want us to release anything else whatsoever," Lebanon Police Lt. Brent Wheat said.

A grand jury met over a three-day period and deliberated for more than three hours Wednesday before handing up Fairfield's murder indictment "for the knowing and intentional killing of her daughter," according to a news release from Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer. In the release, he acknowledged it was "rare to convene a grand jury."

"However," he wrote, "this case presents several alleged facts that are complicated and one in particular that people want to reject: that being, that a mother would kill her own child.

"That said, I wanted six people in this community to review the alleged facts with me to provide guidance on how to proceed."

Boone Superior Court 2 Judge Rebecca McClure set Fairchild's jury trial for 9 a.m. March 31. If convicted, she faces up to 65 years in prison.

Wheat said Friday that Lebanon emergency responders found the girl unconscious and not breathing at 3:34 a.m. June 14, 2007, when they arrived at Fairfield's home, 1907 N. Lebanon St. A caller had said there was an unresponsive person at the home.

Boone County Coroner Rick Dowden confirmed Friday that the cause of death was a drug overdose but said the manner of the girl's death has yet to be determined.

"Because the case is under a sealed grand jury indictment, that's all the prosecutor's office is wanting me to say," Dowden said.

Elizabeth Fairfield was arrested Thursday without incident at her home and taken to the Boone County Jail. She is being held without bond.