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Civil commitment proceedings stalled in Downer case

BEMIDJI -- A second opinion will be sought before a Bemidji woman accused of manslaughter in the death of a 6-year-old child can be civilly committed by the court as mentally ill.

Rachel Downer, 22, was charged with second-degree manslaughter after her 6-year-old cousin, Mercedes Mayfield, died while in her care. Mayfield was found outside an apartment complex in Bemidji on Feb. 27. The cause of death was hypothermia.

Downer appeared in Beltrami County Court on Wednesday afternoon for a commitment hearing. She was found to be incompetent to stand trial by the court based on a medical examiner's report last week.

The Beltrami County Attorney's Office recommended a second opinion at Wednesday's hearing before proceeding with the case. Beltrami County Judge Paul Benshoof authorized the request since it is allowed under Minnesota law. A tentative court date for a second commitment hearing has been set for Sept. 10.

If Downer is found to be mentally ill, a threat to herself or others and cannot receive treatment in the community, she may be committed to a facility where she will receive treatment. Should her mental state be restored to capacity, prosecution may continue for the manslaughter charge in the criminal case. Criminal files are placed on inactive status once a person has been committed to an institution.

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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