March 16, 2007 in City

Defense attorney asks judge to delay funeral

Thomas Clouse Staff writer
 

A legal battle may delay the funeral of a girl who police say was killed by abuse last weekend.

Jonathan D. Lytle, 28, and Adriana L. Lytle, 32, were in court Thursday for a first appearance on amended charges of homicide by abuse in connection with the Sunday death of Summer Phelps, 4, previously identified in court records as Summer Lytle.

Spokane County prosecutors on Wednesday added three aggravating factors against the girl’s father and stepmother, which could mean more prison time for the couple if they are convicted.

Superior Court Judge Michael Price set an arraignment date of 4 p.m. next Wednesday for both Lytles. Price also said a hearing should be held Monday to allow the prosecution and defense to make their arguments for why Summer’s body should not be released to her biological mother, Elizabeth Phelps, for a funeral.

Assistant Public Defender John Whaley asked Price to delay any burial plans.

“The obvious reason for such a holding on to the body, at least for some period of time, is so that evidence can be obtained from that body,” Whaley said. “If it is sent to be processed for burial and buried too quickly, there is certainly evidence that could be lost … because of that premature act.”

Deputy Prosecutor Deborah King said she had consulted with fellow Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz, and they were both opposed to any burial delays.

“The state would ask that you not require or forbid the ongoing burial plans for the victim in this matter. It is my understanding … that the mother does want to proceed with those arrangements,” King said. “If Your Honor is inclined to do that, we would ask for an immediate hearing.”

Price entered an order preventing the burial but said both sides should appear Monday for a hearing to argue the merits of delaying the burial any longer.

The Lytles were arrested Sunday morning after Jonathan Lytle took Summer to Deaconess Medical Center.

The little girl had bruises from her thighs up to her head and had clumps of hair missing. She could not be revived.

Detectives found a bite mark, a burn and extensive injuries. Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken has not released an official cause of death but said that Summer died as a result of homicide, or by the actions of another person.

Price ordered both Lytles to remain in the Spokane County Jail on $500,000 bond each.


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