CHIPPEWA FALLS — The 11-year-old Chippewa Falls girl accused of killing a six-month-old infant last fall returned to Chippewa County Court on Wednesday, speaking in court for the first time, where she answered questions directly from the judge overseeing the case.
Dunn County Judge James Peterson questioned her about her understandings of the proceedings. In a soft voice, the girl correctly stated that she is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, and believes she is facing up to 16 years in prison if convicted in adult court. However, she didn’t know what would happen if she waived her preliminary hearing. She replied with one- or two-word responses, usually “yeah” or “no,” to each of Peterson’s questions.
The girl, who has been held in Winnebago Mental Health Institute since March 5, sat quietly for most of the lengthy proceedings Wednesday, swinging her swivel chair back and forth. She has been mentally evaluated on three separate occasions, and each time she has been found incompetent to stand trial on the murder charge.
Like at a hearing in May, the attorneys debated Wednesday if the girl was competent to waive a preliminary hearing in the matter, although she isn’t deemed competent to stand trial. Defense attorney Laurie Osberg also was allowed to question the girl on the record, seeing if she understood what it meant to waive the hearing. Peterson allowed Osberg to ask “leading questions” to coax the girl’s responses. Ultimately, Peterson wasn’t convinced the girl fully understood all the court proceedings.
“Today, I just don’t feel comfortable that there would be a knowingly, voluntarily, intelligently waiver of a preliminary hearing,” Peterson determined at the conclusion of the two-hour hearing. He set the next court hearing for Sept. 4.
In court filings last week, prosecuting attorney Richard Dufour requested that a new “independent” person be assigned to evaluate the girl’s competency, questioning the doctor’s role in the most recent evaluation, on June 12.
“Dr. (Mike) Hammer appears to be actively advocating a legal position that is in lockstep with the defendant’s position, without any educational basis to be engaging in legal research and without citation to any supporting authority,” Dufour wrote.
Dufour also questioned Osberg’s role during the recent evaluation.
“Not only was one of the defendant’s attorneys present for the evaluation, she was an integral part of the evaluation,” Dufour wrote. “She coached the defendant, role played with the defendant, provided the framework for the evaluation and went through the entire waiver form she prepared.”
However, Hammer said Osberg did not say anything while in the room during the evaluation, and was a silent witness.
Because the girl is considered incompetent at this time, the homicide case has been suspended indefinitely. She will continue to be reviewed quarterly to see if she becomes competent.
The girl is accused of stomping on the head of 6-month-old Jaxon Hunter on Oct. 30, causing his death two days later. She was 10 years old at the time.
Jaxon was born April 6, 2018. He was at a day care, which also serves as a foster home, in the town of Tilden on Oct. 30 when the girl — who lived there as a foster child — was alone inside the house while everyone else was playing outside. The girl told authorities she panicked after dropping the baby, and then she stomped on his head when he began to cry.
Jaxon was transferred to a hospital in Minnesota, where he died Nov. 1.
The girl appeared in Chippewa County’s adult court Nov. 5 on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide by someone age 10 or older. She was ordered to be held on a $50,000 cash bond and be placed in a secure detention center.