August 30, 2012

Girl is youngest to be charged with manslaughter in recent state history

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The state's chief prosecutor said he does not remember a case in which someone as young as 10 was charged with a crime as serious as manslaughter in the state.

Bill Stokes, a deputy attorney general and chief of the state's criminal division, has been prosecuting or overseeing the prosecution of criminal cases for 35 years. But never in his career has a child so young faced such a serious charge.

A 10-year-old Fairfield girl was charged with manslaughter Thursday in connection with the death of 3-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway, of Clinton, who died July 8.

Manslaughter is defined as recklessly or negligently causing the death of another person.Conviction on manslaughter charges could carry a prison term of up to 30 years for adults, but such a lengthy term in a juvenile case is highly unlikely.

"I don't remember a case like this, at least not during my tenure," Stokes said Thursday.

Stokes, whose office will be prosecuting the Fairfield case, could not comment on the circumstances surrounding the case.

But Stokes said that the state's juvenile court system is designed to treat child offenders, especially one as young as 10, in such a way as to make sure they receive the rehabilitation and help they need.

"Ten is a pretty tender age," Stokes said.

In Maine Juvenile Court, a judge would preside over the proceeding. If convicted of manslaughter, the girl could potentially be held in a juvenile detention center until the age of 21.

In August 1993, a 10-year-old Biddeford girl admitted to setting a tenement building fire in Biddeford that resulted in the death of a two-year-old girl from Boston. Authorities considered charging the girl with homicide but instead charged her with three counts of arson.

The girl was given counseling, according to Portland Press Herald articles.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said he does not recall in his 24 years of service a case in which a child so young faced such serious charges.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, the prosecutor for criminal cases in Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties, said in the 32 years he's been doing his job he recalls one case of a child nearly as young.

Rushlau said a 14-year-old boy was charged with murder after fatally shooting his younger sister about 10 years ago in Lincoln County.

The case was adjudicated in Juvenile Court.

"But, I don't remember anything like this," Rushlau said, referring to the Fairfield case.

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