Mom gets probation after 1-year-old dies tangled in holiday lights

Death could have been accidental, medical examiner says

OVIEDO, Fla. – A mother who was arrested when her 1-year-old daughter died after being found tangled in holiday lights has been sentenced to 10 years of probation.

Kristen DePasquale was initially arrested in November 2016 on a first-degree murder charge after the Volusia County medical examiner, who has since retired, ruled 1-year-old Mia Rice’s death as a homicide. That doctor disputed DePasquale’s claim that her 2-year-old son caused the girl’s injuries.

DePasquale’s attorneys raised questions about that autopsy that prompted prosecutors to order a review. A medical examiner in Brevard County then ruled that Rice’s death could have been accidental.

Those findings resulted in DePasquale being released on bond on May 23, 2018 after serving about 18 months in jail.

“Prosecutors work hard on behalf of victims and always proceed on a good faith belief there is sufficient evidence to prevail at trial with the charged offenses. When evidence or witness testimony no longer supports that belief, prosecutors are legally and ethically obligated to consider alternative resolutions,” officials from the State Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

DePasquale on Monday entered a plea of no contest to aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm. The state agreed to dismiss the first-degree murder charge.

She was ordered to time served and 10 years of probation. She will have to undergo regular drug testing and comply with any supervision requirements set by the Department of Children and Families. She also will need to pay $3,000 in investigative costs.

DePasquale could be re-sentenced if she’s found to have committed a willful violation of her probation.

Authorities said Rice was found unresponsive at the family home in Oviedo on Nov. 10, 2016 with Halloween lights wrapped around her neck.

DePasquale said she was in the shower and when she got out, her 2-year-old son was apologizing for hurting his sister, according to the report. Rice was partially hanging from the lights, records show.

Police said DePasquale’s statements were inconsistent and there was no evidence she had just taken a shower. Records show she admitted to lying during the investigation.

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