SKOWHEGAN — An 11-year-old girl charged with manslaughter in the death of an infant was ordered Monday to undergo testing to determine whether she is competent to stand trial.
The girl, Kelli Murphy, in her first court appearance since she was charged in the death of 3-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway, entered a “no answer” plea to the charge in Skowhegan District Court.
Murphy, of Fairfield, spent most of her time in the courtroom with downcast eyes, sitting with her attorney. Brooklyn’s mother, Nicole Greenaway, looked on from a few yards away.
The infant died in early July during an overnight stay in the home of Murphy’s mother, Amanda Huard, who was also present in the courtroom. Witnesses said Foss-Greenaway was alone with Murphy, then 10, in her room in the hours before police responded to a 911 call placed by Huard.
Greenaway, of Clinton, has said previously that she was told by state investigators that her daughter had suffocated and had traces of a medication prescribed to Murphy in her system. State officials have not said what caused the infant’s death.
In court, Murphy, wearing glasses and a high ponytail, looked up only briefly to offer quiet answers to direct questions from Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere. She was joined by her attorney and Huard.
Murphy told LaVerdiere that she understood the charges against her. LaVerdiere said that, in a juvenile criminal case, she could choose between a plea of admission, denial or no answer.
“Given the nature of the charges, we enter a no answer plea,” said her attorney, John Martin.
Outside the courthouse, Martin said manslaughter was an “extremely severe” charge for someone who’s so young, the Associated Press reported. “When I say too harsh, I mean she’s just 11,” Martin said. “It’s harsh. There’s no other word for it.”
The competency evaluation ordered by LaVerdiere should be completed by the next court date in the case, a Feb. 28 appearance for trial scheduling. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said the competency evaluation will determine whether Murphy has an understanding of the way the justice system works.
If Murphy is found unfit to stand trial, Benson said, an effort would be made to restore her competency.
LaVerdiere said the competency evaluation will be performed by the State Forensic Service. The results of the evaluation will be used to make further decisions about how the court will proceed.
Under Maine law, LaVerdiere said, if the maximum penalty were imposed against Murphy, she would live in a juvenile development facility until she is 21.
Murphy remains in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. She was in the department’s custody when she was charged in August, according to state police.
Moments before the court hearing began, Greenaway called for charges to be brought against Murphy’s mother, Huard. Greenaway also said that Murphy should spend time in a juvenile detention center.
“It’s a danger for her to be out on the street,” Greenaway said.
Greenaway left the court hearing angry and frustrated, saying she felt that the girl and her mother were smirking, the AP reported.
Benson declined to comment on whether charges might be brought against Huard.
“I’m not going to discuss the extent to which the investigation is ongoing,” he said.
Huard made no public statement Monday morning.
Murphy was 10 when the charge was filed against her, making her the youngest person to be charged with manslaughter in at least 30 years, according to prosecutors.
“Obviously, it’s an unusual situation and it’s an unpleasant situation for all involved,” Benson said after the judge ruled.
Last week, LaVerdiere issued an order forbidding any recording devices in the courtroom during the hearing.