One of two people accused of using a lighter to burn a 6-year-old girl in February pleaded no contest Monday to a felony charge in the case.
Appearing in Yellowstone County District Court, Amber Irene Reynolds, 30, pleaded no contest to felony attempt to commit obstructing justice. That charge was filed against her as an alternative to a count of felony assault on a minor.
According to prosecutors, Reynolds and co-defendant Blaine K. Startin Jr. abused his child, who has Down syndrome, and then attempted to cover for each other while they were being investigated.
Reynolds’ plea agreement calls for a sentence of 10 years, with five years suspended, and dismissal of the assault on a minor charge.
Startin faces charges of assault on a minor and attempt to commit obstructing justice. He has bonded out of jail and is scheduled for trial on Sept. 9.
The alleged victim’s mother, who has joint custody of the child with Startin, told police that she picked up her daughter from Startin’s home in the first block of Willowbend Avenue on Feb. 14 and found that the girl had bruising on her neck and multiple burn marks that had been covered by her clothes.
The woman immediately took the girl to a Billings hospital for treatment. Medical staff told her the mark on the girl’s neck appeared to be from someone holding her down and that the burns appeared to have been caused by a lighter.
Child and Family Services and the Billings Police Department investigated.
Both Startin and Reynolds, who have a 3-year-old together, denied hurting the girl.
Reynolds told police she thought the mark on the girl’s neck was from a balloon and that the burns may have been caused by an oven door that was left open. Startin told Child and Family Services that his daughter’s injuries may have come from a night light.
Court records say the 6-year-old had multiple degrees of burns, but the severity of the burns isn’t specified.
The records also say the girl had petechiae, “which is a condition that can occur wherein blood vessels in the eyes burst during strangulation.”
Reynolds is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 10.
Her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Gregory E. Paskell, asked that she be released without bond so that she can tend to another of her children.
Judge Gregory R. Todd denied the attorney’s request. Reynolds remains in the county jail with bond set at $25,000.