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North Dakota mother pleads not guilty in death of 4-month-old son found in slough

Justice Lange is accompanied by Kevin McCabe, court-appointed defense counsel, at the preliminary hearing in Southeast District Court in Jamestown Wednesday, Sept. 5. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- A Carrington woman was bound over for trial Wednesday, Sept. 5, on charges related to the death of her 4-month-old son in July.

Justice Lange, 25, is charged with manslaughter and child neglect. She appeared at a preliminary hearing Wednesday before Judge Jay Schmitz in Southeast District Court in Jamestown.

Jason Falk, Stutsman County deputy and detective, testified that the medical examiner had listed the cause of Tyr Lange’s death as “starvation and environmental exposure due to caretaker neglect.”

Falk was the only witness called by Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen during the preliminary hearing. Falk initially testified about the search for Tyr that occured over two days in early July.

Lange left the Jamestown area on June 28 with her child after using methamphetamine. She was reported to have vehicle trouble at Woodworth later that day. She then drove with Tyr into a rural area between Woodworth and Buchanan and left the road. The pickup she was driving was found stuck in a farm field on July 6 after Lange walked to a nearby road and was picked up by a local farmer without the baby.

Tyr’s body was found July 7 in a slough with the aid of information that Lange supplied, Falk said.

Falk said he questioned Lange multiple times with an emphasis on gaining information about the possible location of the child prior to the recovery of the body. After the child’s body was found, he read her her rights and further questioned her about what happened.

“She was reserved,” Falk testified. “Said she didn’t know or couldn’t remember.”

During questioning by Kevin McCabe, Lange’s court-appointed attorney, Falk testified the medical examiner had a hard time narrowing the time of death for Tyr.

McCabe said in closing arguments that he believed the prosecution had not proved the death of Tyr was a result of willful and negligent acts by Lange, saying Lange was under the influence of drugs that led her to do irrational things.

“This was a mother lost with her child,” McCabe said. “It is very unfortunate she got lost, but I don’t think the state has enough (evidence) for the charges.”

McCabe then asked the charges be dismissed.

Schmitz referred to the medical examiner’s cause of death when he denied the request to dismiss the charges.

“Self-induced intoxication is not enough to relieve a person from recklessness,” he said.

Schmitz also said Lange should have been able to seek help during the eight days she was missing.

“She’s not in the Rocky Mountains or the Everglades,” he said. “She’s out by Woodworth.”

Lange pleaded not guilty to both charges. McCabe requested a jury trial that will be scheduled after deadlines for court motions and plea deals pass.

On Aug. 31, Fremgen filed documents alleging Lange was a habitual offender. If Lange is found guilty, and found to be a habitual offender, the potential jail sentences are doubled to a possible 20 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and 10 years on the child neglect charge.

Lange remains in custody in the Stutsman County Correctional Center on $400,000 bond.

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