Judge sentences foster mom to 100 days for baby’s bathtub drowning

KINGMAN, Ariz. — A sentencing turned combustive Friday when the defendant’s angry husband dropped an F-bomb and stormed out of the courtroom as his wife complained about getting jail time for the drowning of her foster baby.

Elizabeth Dawn Stone, 32, was convicted of negligent homicide for the September 2001 death of David Whatahomigie, an 8-month-old boy suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome who was placed in Stone’s foster care by the Hualapai Indian tribe. The baby drowned when Stone left him unattended in a bathtub with a 3-year-old sibling.

The plea agreement spared Stone any possible prison time, but Pro Tem Mohave County Superior Court Judge Derek Carlisle exercised his discretion in imposing a 100-day jail sentence. Stone’s husband, Trevor Nieto, burst through the double doors of the courtroom as she protested that the case and its fees, fines and jail time outcome has ruined the rest of her life.

“Your child doesn’t have the rest of his life,” Carlisle countered from the bench. “He has no life.”

A mix of friends and family members including her ex-husband told the court that Stone was a consummate mother who helped raise dozens of foster kids treating them just the same as her own children. They said that being deprived of future foster motherhood was punishment enough for a woman whose world revolved around children.

Defense attorney Lee Novak, noted that there was eight inches or less of water in the tub and that Stone left the baby unattended for possibly as little as a minute. Yet he conceded that criminal culpability attached when she left the room to retrieve a towel.

Prosecutor Jace Zack said Stone further failed the infant by going into another room to check phone messages and then to another room to greet Nieto who was returning to their home in Valle Vista, some 15 miles north of Kingman.

Zack said the state believes the children were left unattended in the tub for between three to five minutes. Judge Carlisle agreed, arguing that it’s the caretaker’s obligation to remove the water or the child from the tub if there’s need to leave the bathroom.

“Anybody that’s taken care of dozens of children understands that you don’t leave children unattended in a tub,” Carlisle said.

Carlisle gave Stone until January 6 to begin serving her jail time. Following that she must perform 200 hours of community work service and serve five years probation.

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