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Woman gets leniency for accidental death of child | News

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Woman gets leniency for accidental death of child

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) – Although a Kent County jury convicted Rebecca Joy Cotes of involuntary manslaughter for the accidental asphyxiation death of her special needs daughter, the circumstances do not warrant prison.

That was the determination of Kent County Circuit Court Judge George Jay Quist, who on Monday sentenced the 37-year-old Wyoming mother to 4½ months in jail.

A Kent County jury convicted Cotes in the March 2014 death of 18-month-old Hannah Hoag, who died after her breathing tube became dislodged as the child slept.

Hoag was a niece Cotes adopted in 2013. She moved from northern Michigan to the Grand Rapids area where the child could receive better medical attention, the woman's attorney said.

"The child came into the care of Miss Cotes, her health improved dramatically, the failure to thrive diagnosis was resolved under Ms. Cotes' care and custody,'' Quist said Monday. "However, if the court did not impose some jail, the court would be ignoring the unanimous verdict of 12 Kent County citizens.''

With that, the judge sentenced Cotes to 135 days in jail – well below sentencing guidelines that recommended a minimum term of between one and two years in prison.

Defense attorney Christopher Dennie asked that his client serve no jail time for what he said was a family tragedy.

"She was cooperative, she called police as soon as she discovered Hannah,'' Dennie said. "I know that her family has provided letters of support.

"Obviously Miss Cotes is paying for this every day with the loss of her daughter,'' Dennie added. "She is, as any parent would do, Monday morning quarterbacking herself.''

Kent County jurors deliberated more than seven hours over two days before returning its verdict on Oct. 8.

Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker told jurors Cotes did not used prescribed medical equipment to monitor oxygen levels administered to the girl. The breathing tube became dislodged during the night, causing the girl to die from asphyxiation.

Hoag was found dead in her crib about 11:30 a.m. March 24, 2014 at the family's home on Blandford Avenue SW near Chicago Drive. She was put to bed about 8 p.m. the previous night.

The Kent County Medical Examiner's office ruled the asphyxiation death accidental, concluding the child removed the tracheal tube that provided her with oxygen.


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