JAMESTOWN, N.D. - The woman accused of manslaughter and child neglect in the death of her 4-month-old son has pleaded not guilty.
Twenty-five-year-old Justice Lange entered her plea on Wednesday morning in a Stutsman County courtroom. During the probable cause hearing, Stutsman County State's Attorney Frederick Fremgen called Stutsman County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Falk to the stand. Falk was the lead detective on the case. He indicated Lange had last been seen on June 28 in Woodworth. He said Lange told authorities she had taken meth earlier in the day before leaving Jamestown with the baby. He said she stopped in Woodworth because she was having car troubles. After leaving Woodworth, she was observed by farmers entering their property, but they didn't see her leave and didn't see the vehicle she was driving again.
On July 2, Lange was reported missing by her boyfriend. On July 6, Lange was found walking on a road in rural Stutsman County by a passing vehicle, according to Falk. She was taken to her grandparents home in Carrington, and then to the hospital. Falk said Lange told him she had injuries to her chest. Authorities began searching for the child, and with Lange's help, were able to locate the slough where she said she had been staying with the baby. The child's body was found on July 7.
An autopsy was done two days later, and Falk said the report indicates the baby died of starvation and environmental factors. He said the medical examiner was unable to determine exactly when the infant passed away, but Lange told Falk it happened the day before she was found.
Lange entered pleas of not guilty to the two charges, which are both felonies. Fremgen requested Lange be charged as a habitual offender, which would double the maximum sentence for each charge. The manslaughter charge would then carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, and the child neglect would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.