A 20-year-old mother who left a hair dryer running to warm her baby daughter on a cold night, has pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the infant's death.
Brigit Hippen's plea to a lesser charge prevents the Hutchinson, Kan., woman from going to trial for murder for a second time in the death of her child. Jurors in the first case failed to reach a verdict, resulting in mistrial.
According to prosecutors, Hippen placed her 2- month-old daughter Karina Perez in a bassinet in the bathroom, rested a blow dryer on the counter, and fell asleep.
Doctors said the child's temperature reached a fatal 108 degrees.
"We prosecuted this because we felt this went well beyond negligence," said Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder. "Our position was that it was more than the negligence of a new mom."
Hippen's attorney disagrees.
"This was just a horrible, tragic accident," said David Harger, who represents Hippen.
Harger said it was a cold night, and Hippen had placed the hooded bassinet in the bathroom and turned on the blow dryer a few feet away, hoping the warmth and sound would lull the baby to sleep. Hippen and the baby's father were watching a movie in the next room, and accidentally fell asleep.
The hooded bassinet apparently acted like an oven, trapping the heat, and causing the child's death from hyperthermia.
"She's devastated," Harger said of his client. "It took us an hour just to get her into the courtroom. She's just an emotional wreck."
Hippen and her boyfriend have since had another child, a little boy. She now faces from two to 11 years in prison, but under state guidelines a judge could sentence her to as little as probation.
"Every way you cut it, this is still a tragedy for everyone involved," said District Attorney Schroeder.
Hippen also faces criminal charges in a separate incident for allegedly punching another woman in the face for dancing with her boyfriend, and for damaging the woman's car.
She will be sentenced in her daughter's death Feb. 24, nearly two years to the day Karina's death.