A Leavenworth woman found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated child endangerment and obstruction of law enforcement has been sentenced to 36 months in prison for the death of her infant son.
Catherine Smith, 32, was sentenced Friday afternoon in Leavenworth County District Court and will serve three years with the Department of Corrections.
The charges stem from events on Nov. 29, 2018, when Smith's son was found unresponsive in her home.
Law enforcement personnel attempted life-saving measures before EMS arrived.
The child was taken to St. Luke's Cushing Hospital and was pronounced dead after additional life-saving attempts.
Her son had a temperature of 105 degrees at the hospital.
At a preliminary hearing, the coroner testified that the cause of death was probable hyperthermia. He testified that there was a complication in the body due to a high environmental temperature. The child was dehydrated.
Law enforcement officers testified that the temperature of the upstairs where the child was located was “very hot” upon their arrival.
Later measurements indicated the upstairs area was close to 100 degrees, although the thermostat was set at 75 degrees downstairs.
The coroner testified that babies need only a short amount of exposure to extreme heat to die due to their thermoregulation system that is not fully developed.
The coroner used the example of a hot car and how quickly a child can be impacted with high outside temperatures.
The mother had not checked on the child for some length of time and initially lied to law enforcement officers as to the child's time of death as well as other facts surrounding the death.
At sentencing, Clinton Lee, defense attorney, advocated for probation. The state asked for prison time. Judge Michael Gibbens denied probation.
“This death should never have happened,” Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said in an email. “A parent's No. 1 job is to protect their children, and that didn't happen here.”