A Pierce County court commissioner Tuesday ordered a 27-yearold woman charged with killing a Lakewood toddler nearly three years ago to be jailed on $100,000 bail.
Commissioner Patrick Oishi entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Leanne Michelle Bechtel at her arraignment in Superior Court. Bechtel is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 3-year-old Autumn Franks.
Prosecutors allege in court papers that Bechtel caused a fatal injury to the girl when they were home alone in April 2008. Bechtel was the live-in girlfriend of the girl’s father at the time.
The defendant told detectives the girl suffered her fatal injury after a hyperactive pit bull named Dozer knocked the toddler off a couch.
Prosecutors originally declined to file charges but changed their minds recently after an expert on pediatric head injuries examined the case.
Federal marshals arrested Bechtel in Oregon last week after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Nearly two dozen of Autumn’s relatives and friends attended Tuesday’s arraignment. Some carried poster boards displaying photographs of the girl.
Bechtel’s mother and stepfather also attended the hearing.
Deputy prosecutor Lori Kooiman argued for $300,000 bail, saying the charge against Bechtel was extremely serious. Autumn was a particularly vulnerable victim because of her age, and Bechtel abused a position of trust, Kooiman said.
Defense attorney Bret Purtzer asked that his client, who sobbed throughout the arraignment, be released on her own recognizance.
Prosecutors reached a charging decision only after they “shopped the case around,” Purtzer said. Bechtel, who has lived near her family in Oregon since Autumn’s death, is not a risk to abscond, he added.
“This has been devastating for her,” Purtzer said.
Oishi declined to let Bechtel out of jail without bail and also ordered that she find somewhere to live in Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap or King counties should she be released.
She’s to return to court next month for a pre trial hearing.