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SHAWNEE, Kan. — A Kansas man charged with first-degree murder and arson pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

Nicholas Ecker, 28, entered the plea after a judge determined there is enough evidence to try him in the death of his 17-month-old son. In addition to murder and arson, Ecker is also charged with three other crimes.

He will be back in court in September.

According to court documents, Shawnee police responded to a fire at a home near West 69th Street and Switzer Road in February.

Firefighters said both Ecker and the child’s mother, Karlie Phelps, arrived at the house after firefighters.

Phelps arrived at the scene, and court documents say a law officer overheard her say, “I lit it, no I know I put it out. That would be an accident,” before blaming Ecker for the fire.

Investigators obtained cell phone records that show Ecker and Phelps texted back and forth during the time of the fire.

Charging documents show records for Ecker’s cell phone put it less than a mile from the house at the time of the fire.

The phone records also show Phelps texted Ecker stating, “Go get junior NOW. HES INSIDE … I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU STARTED THAT FIRE, YOU KILLED OUR BABY!!! And you could’ve killed me!!!”

Phelps admitted in a later interview that she was at someone’s house in Wyandotte County and left her 17-month-old son home alone.

She is charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child under 16 for her alleged role in her son’s death.

Phelps is scheduled to be in court next week.

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