Woman charged with manslaughter after infant dies

A Myrtle Point woman is behind bars after a child she was caring for was seriously injured and later died.

District Attorney R. Paul Frasier reported Hayley Reanne Steele, 27, is facing charges of manslaughter in the first degree, assault in the first degree and criminal mistreatment in the first degree. Steele was arrested Thursday morning and transported to the Coos County Jail.

Frasier said Steele called 9-1-1 Monday and reported an infant she was caring for was not breathing and that the child’s eyes were not responding in a normal manner. Coos County Sheriff’s deputies and medical personnel immediately responded to the home near Myrtle Point.

When first responders arrived, they found 10-month-old Owen Nichols in critical condition and requiring CPR. The infant was immediately transported to Coquille Valley Hospital. In Coquille, Nichols was found to have a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. He was then flown to Emmanuel Hospital in Portland.

Despite around-the-clock care at the hospital, Nichols’ condition deteriorated, and he died around 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Medical personnel at the two hospitals determined the injuries the baby suffered were not the result of an accident or natural causes, rather the result of abusive head trauma.

Even before the medical opinion, Coos County Sheriff’s deputies and the Oregon State Police initiated an investigation, which included a search of the home where the incident happened and the interviewing of multiple witnesses.

That investigation, along with the medical findings led to Steele’s arrest Thursday morning. Frasier said Steele had been hired by the infant’s parents to care for him in the Wilson’s home.

Frasier said he officially filed charges Thursday and expected she would have her first court appearance Friday.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Coos County Sheriff’s Office.

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