A Lake Havasu City woman charged in the bathtub drowning death of her young grandson is having a hard time accepting criminal responsibility for the tragedy. Stephanie Rowland, 59, cried through much of the November 1 settlement conference hearing in Kingman.
Rowland is charged with negligent homicide in the March 11 death of 13 month-old Caleb Rowland-Bible at her home on Neptune Drive. Judge Billy Sipe conducted the settlement conference to ensure that Rowland understood the status and possible outcomes of her case.
Judge Sipe told Rowland she faces punishment ranging from probation to 3.75 years in prison if convicted at trial as charged. Judge Sipe further noted his perspective is that a jury would likely find Rowland guilty for leaving Caleb unattended with her older brother in a tub of running water when she was distracted by the arrival of a carpet cleaner.
Sipe told Rowland he would likely send her to prison if she were convicted. He also pointed out that Rowland would avoid prison and be placed on probation if she pled guilty to the charge, in accordance with the plea offer extended by prosecutor Jacob Cote.
Sipe said jurors would likely find her criminally reckless and responsible for Caleb’s death for leaving him in the tub of running water, even though the drain spout was supposedly in the “up” position.
``Everybody knows that water is dangerous, especially to children,” Sipe said. ``You walked away from that environment and got distracted...I think this would not be a strong case for you if you went to trial.”
Rowland made statements to the Court, reflecting a mix of emotions and, perhaps, confusion.
``This child was my grandson,” Rowland sobbed. ``I live this nightmare every day of my life.”
Rowland said she was sick when the incident occurred and that she doesn’t remember leaving both boys in the tub together.
``I never consciously left that baby in that bathtub...I never saw him in the bathtub,” Rowland said. ``He put himself in that bathtub with his brother.”
Police investigators reached a different conclusion.
``Based on statements by all parties, the child was left in the bathtub with another sibling without supervision for 10-12 minutes,” a police report said. The report noted that Rowland initially accepted responsibility when questioned after the drowning.
``It was an accident, but I was negligent,” Rowland told police investigators.
Cote told the Court he might be willing to reconsider his plea offer, possibly providing a cap of jail time in the vicinity of 100 days. Judge Sipe could order up to a full year in jail under the current plea proposal.
The case has been set for a status conference on December 8.