GANT: Case Against Grampian Woman Charged in Infant’s Death Discussed in Court

CLEARFIELD CO., Pa. (GANT) – The case against a Grampian woman charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of her infant daughter was discussed Friday in Clearfield County Court.

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Police say Alexa Lynn Kephart, 22, and her boyfriend, Dakota James Lynn Canfield, 23, were under the influence of drugs when their 39-day-old daughter died on July 1.

According to the affidavit, the one-month-old baby was asleep with them in their bed. When they woke around 10:14 a.m. the next morning, they found the baby lying against her mother on her left side, facing her mother and covered with a blanket.

The child was reportedly unconscious and blue. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

Canfield is facing two felony counts of endangering the welfare of children and misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person. He has signed a plea agreement and will be scheduled for sentencing.

In addition to involuntary manslaughter, Kephart is also charged with two felony counts of endangering the welfare of children and a misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person.

Before the beginning of testimony at the hearing Friday, District Attorney Ryan Sayers made a motion to amend the affidavit in this case to add five more counts of endangering the welfare of children, which Judge Paul Cherry granted.

Kephart’s attorney, Matthew Ness, who filed multiple motions argued that a drug test done by a representative of Children, Youth and Family Services, which allegedly showed Kephart was positive for methamphetamines, amphetamines, marijuana and ecstasy, should be suppressed as evidence in the case.

In his motion, he noted there was no warrant for the test, and stated that she was “subjected to illegal search and seizure’ when police requested CYS to do the drug test on Kephart at the police station.

Trooper David Patrick of the state police and Tara Haversack, a caseworker with CYS, testified about the circumstances surrounding the test, which was done the same day the baby died.

Patrick explained under direct questioning of First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza, that an investigation began after he received information about the death of the child from County Coroner Kim Shaffer Snyder.

Kephart responded to his request for an interview by arriving at the state police barracks with Canfield and their two-year-old boy.

During their talk, he said she appeared to be under the influence of something as she was groggy, glassy-eyed and anxious.

She told him there was an open case with her family through CYS because the baby tested positive for drugs when she was born. Kephart also tested positive at that time, Patrick testified.

When Patrick interviewed Canfield, he also appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance, he said.

After speaking with Canfield, he requested someone from CYS to come to the station and drug test the young parents.

Patrick contacted CYS, not just because of the open case, but because he was also concerned that the couple would be taking their two-year-old home with them, he said.

Haversack testified that at first, both Kephart and Canfield were unable to provide urine samples, but after drinking some water, Kephart did comply.

She tested positive for methamphetamines, amphetamines, marijuana and ecstasy. After Canfield also tested positive, a family member was called to take the two-year-old child.

Haversack described Kephart as being groggy, shaky, jittery and crying off and on. She also nodded off at times.

During cross examination, Ness asked if Kephart was told she could not leave until she provided a urine sample.

Haversack was unable to recall this detail but Ness noted it was in the report and Haversack agreed she must have said that if it was in her report.

The test itself was not preserved, but Haversack said she had photos of the results and had proved that to police.

Cherry noted a motion for discovery by the defense stated that they had not received a copy of the test results and Nedza responded that CYS was to send the photos directly to Ness.

Ness confirmed he had not received any photos in reference to the drug test. Cherry told Nedza to be sure Ness is given this information.

The commonwealth and defense will provide briefs on the suppression issue within 30 days after receiving a transcript of the testimony in this hearing. Cherry will review the briefs before issuing a ruling.

A brief discussion was held on an additional motion for potential jury members to be questioned separately due to media coverage of the case.

Cherry noted that the way Clearfield County picks jurors they rarely have a problem because the county is so large.

“If we have difficulty seating jurors due to news or social media, we will then address this,” he said.

A jury in this case may be picked in August with possible trial dates in September or October.

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