January 15, 2009 in City

Charges reduced in girl’s death

By TODD DVORAK Associated Press

BOISE – An Idaho prosecutor has dropped murder charges and will instead pursue an involuntary manslaughter case in the death of an 11-year-old girl who was trying to walk 10 miles in the snow on Christmas Day.

Lincoln County Prosecutor E. Scott Paul filed a motion Tuesday amending the second-degree murder charges against Robert Aragon, 55, and his cousin Kenneth Quintana, 29, in the death of Aragon’s daughter, Sage Aragon.

Aragon and Quintana, both of Jerome, are now charged in 5th District Court with one count each of felony involuntary manslaughter for their alleged roles in the girl’s death.

Authorities say the girl and her 12-year-old brother, Bear, were with their father and Quintana on Dec. 25, en route to the home of the children’s mother, when Aragon’s car got stuck in a snow drift on an isolated stretch of highway north of Shoshone.

In the criminal complaint, the prosecutor accuses Aragon and Quintana of allowing the children to walk to their mother’s home in bone-chilling weather while the adults tried to dislodge the car.

The children ultimately separated, never made it to their mother’s home and a search ensued. The boy survived, but rescue crews found the girl early the next day buried in snow. She was later pronounced dead, likely of hypothermia.

Police arrested the father on Dec. 26 and he was charged with second-degree murder and felony injury to a child. Quintana was arrested days later and charged with the same crimes. Aragon is being held on a $500,000 bond in the Jerome County Jail; Quintana is being held on a $150,000 bond in the Blaine County Jail, the Idaho Mountain Express reported.

Under Idaho law, the difference between second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter is the level of intent, says Nora O’Callaghan, a criminal law professor at the University of Idaho.

Second-degree murder requires prosecutors to show a defendant acted on impulse and with some level of intent and deliberation, while involuntary manslaughter suggests the defendant was aware of the potential danger but failed to act in a way to prevent it, she said.

“Involuntary is a case of showing indifference to the value of human life by your conduct,” O’Callaghan told The Associated Press. “It’s not like you wanted the person to die, but you should have been more protective of human life.”

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the two men face punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

Both men are also still charged with felony injury to a child, in the case of Bear Aragon.

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