(GREAT FALLS) Misty Marie Cutburth pleaded no contest on Wednesday to one count of criminal endangerment in connection with the 2016 death of her 10-month old daughter.
According to court documents, in January of 2016, police responded to a call of an unresponsive child at Cutburth's apartment. Great Falls Police Detective Noah Scott testified that the cause of death was hypothermia.
Scott also said they found meth paraphernalia in the home and Cutburth's prints were the only ones on it.
They also found the baby had been exposed to "chronic methamphetamine use" during the final weeks of her life.
Cutburth has been recommended for acceptance into treatment court.
If she is not accepted into the treatment court program, she will likely be sentenced to 10 years with the Montana Department of Corrections. If she is accepted into treatment court, her sentence will be suspended.
What is a "no contest" plea?
According to law.com:
In criminal law, a defendant's plea in court that he/she will not contest the charge of a particular crime, also called nolo contendere. While technically not an admission of guilt for commission of the crime, the judge will treat a plea of "no contest" as such an admission and proceed to find the defendant guilty as charged. A "no contest" plea is often made in cases in which there is also a possible lawsuit for damages by a person injured by the criminal conduct (such as reckless driving, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault), because it cannot be used in the civil lawsuit as an admission of fault. "No contest" is also used where there has been a "plea bargain" in which the defendant does not want to say he/she is guilty but accepts the sentence recommended by the prosecutor in exchange for not contesting the charge (which is often reduced to a lesser crime).
(APRIL 29, 2016) Misty Marie Cutburth of Great Falls is facing a criminal charge in connection with the January death of her 10-month old daughter. Cutburth was charged on Thursday with one count of felony criminal endangerment.
On January 12th, police responded to a call of an unresponsive child at the apartment Cutburth shared with her two children and her boyfriend on the 600 block of 4th Avenue South. The 911 caller, a neighbor, stated, "We've got a child that's not breathing." The occupants of the apartment had conflicting stories about how the infant was found.
According to court documents, police say the room where the baby slept was "freezing cold," and the window was found open. The outside temperature that night was approximately 32 degrees. Medical personnel say the child's body temperature did not register on the thermometer, which starts registering at 86 degrees. She was pronounced dead at Benefis Health System hospital shortly after; the child's surface temperature was reportedly 78 degrees.
An autopsy could not pinpoint a cause of death, but prosecutors say tests determined that she had been exposed to "chronic methamphetamine use" during the final weeks of her life.
Charging documents say Cutburth has a 2013 conviction for drug paraphernalia in Idaho, and the Montana Department of Family Services had been called to the home twice in October 2015 over concerns about the mother's drug use.