New Details In Bemidji Child Exposure Death - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

New Details In Bemidji Child Exposure Death

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The criminal complaint in the death of a six-year-old Bemidji, Minnesota, girl has been filed by the Bemidji Police Department.  The complaint explains what may have happened the night before six-year-old Mercedes Mayfield was found dead on the steps of her Bemidji apartment.

The complaint says Mayfield's mother, Malika Peoples, called 911 on the morning of February 27 after finding her daughter on the steps outside their apartment building. By the time emergency crews arrived, Peoples had moved her daughter inside the entryway. Officers attempted to revive the girl, but were unsuccessful and Mercedes was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officers noted that Mercedes was wearing a winter coat and hat and a boot on her left foot. The right boot and her mittens were found on the outside step. Mercedes was taken to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office and the autopsy report stated that she died from hypothermia.

Peoples was interviewed by investigators and said that she and her three children, ages six, three and two, live at the apartment with her. The two-year-old was not home at the time, as he was staying with his father. Peoples said the day before, on February 26, Rachel Downer was caring for her three-year-old while she was at work and her six-year-old was at school.

Peoples had injured her arm at work and been given some pain medication to deal with the injury. Downer was at the apartment with the three-year-old and Mercedes arrived home after school activities about 5:00 p.m. Peoples said everyone ate and she then went to bed. Peoples said Downer knew she had been injured and was taking medication, so Downer was going to stay at her apartment that evening.

Peoples told officers that when she woke up about 6:00 the next morning, Mercedes was not in her room. After she was unable to locate Mercedes, she called Downer and asked why she had taken her daughter home. Downer said she had not taken Mercedes home with her.  That is when Peoples said she looked out the window and saw her daughter laying on the front steps.

Officers also spoke to Rachel Downer. She said that Malika Peoples was her aunt and that she babysat for her cousins often. Downer said she arrived at her aunt's apartment approximately 5:00 p.m. and saw her aunt's arm in a sling but did not know how she was injured.

Downer said she told Peoples that she was going to take Mercedes to stay at her apartment, but later changed her mind and did not tell her aunt about the change in plans. Downer stated that her son and Mercedes helped her carry items out to her car, but she watched Mercedes re-enter the building before leaving.

The investigation found that the outside door to the building is controlled by a security system. The apartments have call buttons by the outside door. Individuals who do not have a key press the button for the apartment they wish to enter, so someone inside can unlock the outside door.

Rachel Downer was arrested Friday in connection with the cold exposure death of 6-year old Mercedes Mayfield. Downer was formally charged in court on Monday with 2nd degree Manslaughter and felony Neglect of a child.


  Twenty-two year old Rachel Downer of Bemidji was arrested Friday in connection with the cold exposure death of 6-year old Mercedes Mayfield. Downer is the girl's cousin.

  Downer is scheduled to be formally charged in court at 11:00 a.m. Monday with 2nd degree Manslaughter and felony Neglect of a child.

  The criminal complaint will be available at that time and should reveal more details as to what exactly happened. Check back later this morning. We'll have it posted here.

  On February 27th, 2014, at 6:23 a.m. the Bemidji Police Department, along with members of Bemidji Ambulance, Bemidji Fire and the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, responded to a weather related medical call at  924 Carter Circle SE, Bemidji, MN.

  Upon arrival officers discovered 6-year old Mercedes Mayfield, who was unresponsive. She had signs of being exposed to the frigid elements and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

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