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Kansas Woman Charged with Manslaughter, Child Endangerment After Boy Dies in House Fire Allegedly Set by His Father

Karlie Mae Phelps. (Image via the Johnson County, Kan. Sheriff's Office.)

Karlie Mae Phelps. (Image via the Johnson County, Kan. Sheriff’s Office.)

A Kansas woman was arrested Friday afternoon in connection with the death of a little boy in a house fire, according to local news reports.

Karlie Mae Phelps, 28, is charged with involuntary manslaughter involving a child less than six years old, according to court records on file in Johnson County, Kan.  She’s also charged with endangering a child less than the age of 18, the court records indicate.

Phelps also faces a separate prosecution for drug possession, court records indicate.  The offense date in that case is listed as Feb. 25, 2022 — the date she was booked into jail.

The records do not currently list a defense attorney for Phelps.  She was booked into the custody of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, according to online jail records.

Court records say the charges are connected to a Feb. 12, 2022 incident.

Nicholas Adam Ecker and Karlie Mae Phelps are charged in connection with this Shawnee, Kan. house fire. (Image via KMBC-TV screengrab.)

Nicholas Adam Ecker and Karlie Mae Phelps are charged in connection with this Shawnee, Kan. house fire. (Image via KMBC-TV screengrab.)

The Shawnee Police Department and the Shawnee Fire Department — both of which are located in suburban Kansas City — responded to a fire at about 1:00 a.m. on Feb. 13, Kansas City CBS affiliate KCTV reported.  “Crews ended up pulling a dead infant from the home,” the television station said bluntly while reporting Phelps’s arrest.

KCTV further said the infant who died was born in 2020.

The police department, in a terse Feb. 14 press release, said simply that the fire occurred at 10502 West 69th Terrace.

“One person has been taken into custody related to this incident,” the press release said at the time. “The investigation continues.”

That person, as Law&Crime previously reported, was Nicholas Adam Ecker, 28.  Kansas City FOX affiliate WDAF-TV identified Ecker as the dead child’s father.  Ecker reportedly violated a protective order which favored the child’s mother and is now charged with one count each of first-degree murder and aggravated arson with the risk of bodily harm.  Authorities said he intentionally set the fire that took the child’s life.

Nicholas Adam Ecker. (Image via the Johnson County, Kan. Sheriff's Office.)

Nicholas Adam Ecker. (Image via the Johnson County, Kan. Sheriff’s Office.)

GoFundMe page established by Jackie Phelps, who identified herself on the page as the sister of Karlie Phelps and the aunt of the child who died, referred to the victim only by the name “Junior.”

“Junior was so precious and such a good boy!” the GoFundMe page reads as of Saturday morning.  “He was Karlie’s best friend and helped her go through hard times.”

The page says Karlie Phelps has two “kiddos” who “lost all of their belongings” in the blaze and who needed support.

The GoFundMe raised more than $10,800 as of Saturday morning — more than double its $5,000 goal — and it contains but a terse update which appears to address the arrest of Karlie Phelps:

I want to let you know that the donations have been sent to the owners of the home and to help with the necessities for the children. The Phelps family has been getting alot [sic] of backlash since recent information has been released. We are unaware of what truly happened but with the investigation on going, justice will be served. The kiddos are in good hands and loved deeply. I want to personally thank everyone of you for your donations. These kids don’t deserve this.

The GoFundMe site says it was set up to benefit one Kirby Phelps.

The Shawnee Mission Post noted that officials have not confirmed the relationship between Karlie Phelps and the child who died, but it did report that the address listed for Phelps in a jail booking log matched the address where the house fire occurred.  Local NBC affiliate KSHB also connected the addresses in similar fashion.

Under Kansas law, involuntary manslaughter is generally (and simply) defined as “the killing of a human being committed . . . recklessly,” though some other definitions also apply in certain more complicated circumstances.  Those circumstances can include “flight from any felony” — among other things.  When the crime involves a “victim . . . under the age of six years,” it is considered a “person felony” (e.g., the victim was a human, not money or property) with a “severity level 3.”  That makes it eligible for a presumptive 94-month sentence under the state’s sentencing grid — or, in other words, just two months short of eight years.  The possible range of incarceration under the state’s sentencing grid is 89 months (about 7.4 years) to 100 months (8.3 years) behind bars — but that assumes the offender has no criminal history.  Under Kansas law, penalties increase if a convicted defendant has prior offenses on his or her record.

Karlie Phelps is scheduled to appear in court on Monday afternoon, according to jail records.  Ecker is scheduled to appear on March 31.

The case is number for Karlie Phelps is  22CR00552 in Johnson County, Kan.  Ecker’s is 22CR00452.

Read some of the available records below:

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.