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Civil commitment proceedings stalled in death of 6-year-old child

A second opinion will be sought before a Bemidji woman accused of manslaughter in the death of a 6-year-old child can be civilly committed by the court as mentally ill.

Rachel Downer, 22, was charged with second-degree manslaughter after her 6-year-old cousin, Mercedes Mayfield, died while in her care. Mercedes was found outside an apartment complex in Bemidji on Feb. 27. The cause of death was hypothermia.

Downer appeared in Beltrami County Court on Wednesday for a commitment hearing. She was found to be incompetent to stand trial by the court based on a medical examiner's report last week.

The Beltrami County Attorney's Office recommended a second opinion at Wednesday's hearing before proceeding with the case. Beltrami County Judge Paul Benshoof authorized the request since it is allowed under Minnesota law. A tentative court date for a second commitment hearing has been set for Sept. 10.

If Downer is found to be mentally ill, she will be committed to a facility where she will receive treatment. Once her mental state has been restored to capacity, prosecution may continue for the manslaughter charge.

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