A manslaughter charge against a girl from Fairfield who is accused of killing a 3-month-old baby will be withdrawn, say state and defense attorneys.

Kelli Murphy, who is now 12, was 10 when she became the youngest person to be charged with manslaughter in Maine in at least 30 years. She will admit to only a misdemeanor under an agreement that still needs court approval.

Murphy is scheduled to appear before a judge next Wednesday in Skowhegan District Court for a closed-door hearing to determine whether she is legally competent to stand trial.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said he anticipates that the agreement will be approved by the court during that hearing. He said the exact misdemeanor charge can’t yet be disclosed.

“There will be admissions to lesser charges,” Stokes said. “The goal of this, which has been the goal from the very beginning, is that the juvenile will be subject to conditions and to counseling, supervision, treatment for a lengthy period of time, so that the issues that she has can be addressed.”

Murphy was charged with killing 3-month-old Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway in July 2012. The infant was staying overnight at Murphy’s home because Murphy’s mother, Amanda Huard, was babysitting her.

Police told Foss-Greenaway’s mother, Nicole Greenaway of Clinton, that an autopsy showed traces of a medication prescribed to Murphy in the baby’s system. Greenaway said she saw bruises on the baby’s face.

Murphy’s attorney, John Martin, confirmed that he and the state have agreed to dismiss the manslaughter charge in favor of a misdemeanor charge.

He said evidence presented by psychiatric experts has shown that Murphy is more likely to be found competent to stand trial for a misdemeanor charge than for a felony charge.

Children are usually treated differently by the justice system because their brains have not developed enough to allow them to fully understand the long-term consequences of their behavior, said Alan Fox, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston and a national expert on juvenile homicide. Because of that, young offenders are often given sentences that reflect efforts to treat them, rather than punish them, Fox has said.

Stokes said he told Greenaway about the deal Wednesday afternoon, and that Greenaway asked him several probing questions about the decision. Greenaway did not respond to an interview request Wednesday.

Greenaway has previously called for criminal charges against Huard, Murphy’s mother, but Stokes said, “Legally speaking, it’s not possible.”

He said the state could not prove that Huard caused the infant’s death, and the law generally doesn’t recognize parents as being guilty of crimes committed independently by their children.

“One of the things we have to prove in any death is causation, and we don’t have any evidence that (Huard) caused anybody’s death,” Stokes said.

DHHS CRITICIZES MURPHY’S MOTHER

Huard’s housemates said she allowed Murphy to take the baby into Murphy’s room despite clear signs that the infant might not be safe.

On June 19, 2012, less than three weeks before the death of Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway on July 8, a couple who lived in the basement of Huard’s home said they had to rush their 8-month-old daughter to the hospital. The girl nearly died from what turned out to be the same medication that was prescribed to Murphy.

The state Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice to Huard on Aug. 10, 2012, saying its review of Foss-Greenaway’s death showed that she had neglected the infant.

“Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway has died as a result of your neglect,” said the notice, signed by a caseworker in the DHHS’s Office of Child and Family Services. “You knew that Kelli should not be babysitting children but have continued to allow her to do so.”

Martin said his defense of Murphy does not involve an argument that Huard was guilty of any crime.

Huard’s attorney, John Youney, said he doesn’t believe that charges against Huard would be justified under Maine’s statutes.

“What people may want and what the law is capable of doing are clearly two different things,” he said.

Youney said that he and Huard are focused on Murphy’s long-term well being.

“Nothing can bring back the baby,” he said. “The best we can do is look out for the well-being of my client’s child.”

MURPHY COMPETENCE IN QUESTION

If the misdemeanor charge is approved at next week’s hearing, it will mark the beginning of the end of a case that has been stalled over the issue of Murphy’s competence to stand trial.

To be found competent, a criminal defendant must fully understand the charges and how those charges relate to his or her actions.

In March 2013 and again in June, Judge Charles LaVerdierre found that Murphy had not met the standard for competence but said he expected her to become competent in the foreseeable future.

Attorneys for the prosecution and defense said Murphy’s age was the main reason that she had not been found competent.

After a third evaluation by psychologists, earlier this year, Stokes said Murphy was ready to stand trial, but Martin said she was not.

On March 27, LaVerdierre heard evidence from both sides during a closed-door hearing. Next Wednesday’s court date was scheduled to revisit the issue.

While that process unfolded, the prosecution and the defense negotiated to reach an agreement.

Martin did not file a court motion seeking to have the charge against Murphy dismissed, but his position has been that the charge should be dropped if his client continued to be found incompetent to stand trial.

After Foss-Greenaway’s death, Murphy was taken into the custody of the DHHS. Officials won’t say where she is living or whether she is getting treatment.

Stokes said Wednesday that he doesn’t know where the DHHS is keeping Murphy, but it is unlikely that she has been allowed to return home.

“Her needs are such that the focus of our negotiations has been to get her more intensive treatment and counseling,” he said. “She is still very young and has a chance to become a productive member of society.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

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Twitter: @hh_matt