A 23-year-old woman who prosecutors say went to law enforcement in California and admitted to abusing her infant daughter, who died in Billings in 2012, appeared in court Tuesday and denied charges of assault, endangerment and negligent homicide.
Appearing in Yellowstone County District Court by video from the county jail, Amanda Rose Steffen pleaded not guilty to one felony count each of negligent homicide, aggravated assault and criminal endangerment and two felony charges of assault on a minor.
District Judge Gregory R. Todd maintained Steffen’s bond at $250,000. If she posts bond, she must comply with GPS monitoring.
Through her attorney, Steffen informed the court that her last name had been misspelled as “Steffan” in charging documents.
Charging documents state that Billings police and emergency crews were called to an apartment in the 700 block of Avenue B on June 4, 2012, for an unresponsive infant.
Once there, they found an infant, identified in the affidavit only as R.F., who was taken to a Billings hospital and pronounced dead.
Police then interviewed the girl’s mother, identified as Steffen, and father.
They told investigators they were taking a nap and that Steffen found the infant not breathing when she woke up and checked on her, according to court documents. An autopsy revealed a healing skull fracture and bruising on the left side of the girl’s head, as well as other injuries and signs of dehydration, although the physician who performed the autopsy found no evidence of brain trauma and ruled the cause of death as undetermined, the affidavit states.
During interviews with police, Steffen and the girl’s father didn’t provide an explanation for the skull fracture.
Steffen walked into the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in California on April 18 and admitted to abusing her baby in Billings, according to Iffland. Why she confessed is unclear.
She said that she and the girl’s father were abusive.
“The defendant stated that the abuse she perpetrated may have played a role in the baby’s death,” the charging documents state. In her confession, Steffen said she began abusing the baby about two weeks after the child’s birth. She said she believed her abuse could have contributed to the baby’s death.
She admitted to putting the child in a car seat for long periods of time, shaking her, and sometimes shutting her in a closet, charging documents state.
She went on to confess that she would suffocate the baby by putting her thumb in the child’s mouth for 30 seconds at a time. She also said she had fractured the baby’s skull by punching her in the forehead, according to charging documents.
During the interview with a Sonoma detective, she said that she put the girl in a closet while in a car seat and found her dead when she checked on her, the affidavit states.
The child’s father also was suspected in the death, but he was never charged.
At the time of the baby’s death, a coroner’s examination proved inconclusive.
Steffen’s trial date is to be determined.