Bemidji woman found unfit for trial in girl's freezing death


A Bemidji woman who was charged with manslaughter in connection with the freezing death of a 6-year-old girl has been found incompetent to stand trial, the Bemidji Pioneer reports.

Rachel Downer, 22, was charged in March after her cousin, Mercedes Mayfield, was found dead from hypothermia on Feb. 27 outside the apartment building where she lived. The girl was in Downer's care the night before she was found.

According to the criminal complaint, Downer was planning to take Mayfield to her own home to babysit her, but changed her mind once they got outside the building, the Associated Press reports. Downer told police she thought Mayfield had gone back inside the building before she drove away. But it turns out the girl couldn't get back in because the door was locked.

Mayfield's mother found the girl on the front step the next morning. Officials say she died of hypothermia due to the extreme cold.

Both prosecution and defense accepted the findings of a psychologist's report that Downer is incompetent to stand trial at this time, according to the Associated Press, and the case against her has been suspended.

It's unclear exactly why Downer was deemed incompetent, and Faver, the prosecutor, said that information is not usually made public, the Associated Press said.

According to Minnesota law, 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.

Officials will now seek to have Downer civilly committed for mental health treatment. The first hearing on that issue is on Wednesday, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.

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