DA seeks probation -- not jail time -- for neglectful mother in drowning death of her 4-year-old son
Kayla Barnett pleads guilty to felony child abuse
Last Updated: 46 days ago
ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - Adams County District Attorney Dave Young tells 7NEWS he will seek probation -- not jail time -- for a remorseful mother who has pleaded guilty to felony child abuse in the drowning death of her 4-year-old son.
The mother, Kayla Erin Barnett, 23, of Lafayette, pleaded guilty Tuesday to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed a more serious charge of negligent child abuse resulting in death.
Izaiah Lopez drowned on the afternoon of June 9 in a swimming pool at the Pine Lake Ranch Mobile Home Park, in Thornton. The boy, who could not swim, was found face down in the lap pool and was not wearing a life vest, police said.
Thornton police said the boy was visiting the pool with his mother, grandmother and several other family members.
Young tells 7NEWS it would be difficult to get a jail sentence because the mother thought other adult family members were watching her son in the pool while she went outside to smoke a cigarette. The prosecutor added that other adults in the pool area were supposed to be keeping an eye on the children.
Even though the mother is partially at fault, Young said a jail sentence would not be appropriate.
"In this particular type of case, it's a negligent act. Negligence is a gross-deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would take," the prosecutor explained. "Negligence crimes generally don't carry a prison sentence in Colorado."
"With the defendant being the mother of the child, the likelihood of prison is probably slim," Young added.
The mother is also remorseful, Young said, which influenced prosecutors' decision to seek probation.
Ultimately, a judge will decide what's the proper penalty for Barnett when she's sentenced on Dec. 17.
According to an arrest affidavit, witnesses told police Barnett was busy smoking cigarettes -- and marijuana -- while ignoring her son on the day he drowned in the pool.
Young, however, said that witnesses had conflicting accounts about the mother's conduct that day.
Barnett told police she went to smoke in the clubhouse area while Izaiah was in the baby pool with other children surrounded by other adults. She claimed her son was wearing a black-and-yellow life jacket.
Barnett said she had been smoking for about 10 minutes outside the pool enclosure when she heard screaming and someone saying, "That baby is not breathing." She told police she walked toward the commotion and saw Izaiah being removed from the pool. The boy was blue and water was pouring from his mouth, nose and ears.
The mother said the boy was no longer wearing his life jacket and she said she didn't know how the boy got into the adult pool.
People attempted CPR on the boy and paramedics rushed him by ambulance to North Suburban Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Police officers who were at the hospital when medical staff told the family the boy had died overheard a weeping Bartett say, "Why did I leave him alone like that?...he was wearing his vest."
Barnett's mother, Elizabeth Tillinghast replied, "He must have taken it off."
Several of Barnett's family members told police the mother had been smoking cigarettes for about 30 to 40 minutes outside the pool area when the boy drowned.
Barnett's aunt, Darlene Aguilar, told police the mother "wasn't watching Izaiah all that day."
Brenda Velasquez, a cousin of Barnett, said she didn't see Barnett "play with Izaiah the entire time they were there." "Brenda feels that the defendant neglected her responsibility to watch Izaiah," an investigator wrote in the affidavit.
Adult family members said Barnett didn't ask them to watch Izaiah, but the relatives said they played a lot with the boy in the pool because they'd only seen him about four or five times in his lifetime.
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