Anniston mother charged with manslaughter for leaving infant in vehicle

Katherine Papke (Photo: Anniston Police Department)

Anniston police arrested a woman in connection with the death of her infant child.

Investigators said 35-year-old Katherine Papke of Anniston{}is charged with manslaughter and leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.{} Officers said Papke's four-month-old son, Bennett Owen Smith,{}died Friday afternoon at Regional Medical Center in Anniston.

"A little after 2 o'clock, somewhere in that roundabout time, our officers received a call of an emergency situation involving a four-month-old child in the 400 block of Goode Road, which is on the old Fort McClellan property," police sergeant Chris Sparks said.

"Officers along with Anniston EMS and fire responded and found a four-month-old unresponsive. {}Child was transported to RMC for treatment and was later pronounced dead."

Sparks said officers took Papke to the police station for questioning and investigators determined it was a homicide.{} They charged her with two felonies.

Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is a class B felony after a new law went into effect August 1, Sparks said.{} He said it is the first{}incident Anniston police have dealt with under the new law, which he believes applies in cases involving to children under the age of seven.

Sparks said this is also the first death of a child from being left in a vehicle that he has seen during his time with the Anniston Police Department.

"Any case involving a child is always difficult.{} It doesn't matter if you have a child or not, it's awful to see a child hurt or injured in any way, shape, or form," he said.

The investigation is ongoing and police are waiting on a preliminary autopsy report to determine the cause of death.{} Investigators said they hope to receive those results Tuesday.

Sparks declined to comment on whether heat may be involved in Smith's death.{}{}Police are also withholding the reason why Papke was on Goode Road and what she was doing when her son became non-responsive.

A judge set Papke's bond at $50,000 for each felony, and she posted the full amount Saturday afternoon.