SHAWNEE, Kan. — A Shawnee woman may avoid jail time for the role she played in the death of her son.
A Johnson County judge sentenced 28-year-old Karlie Phelps to 18 years in prison. She previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment charges stemming from the fire that killed her 17-month-old son.
In a clarification, the Johnson County District Attorney’s office said that while a judge sentenced Phelps to prison, the judge also granted Phelps’ request for dispositional departure. With that request, Phelps will serve three years of probation instead of prison time.
If Phelps violates any of the terms of her probation she will serve the remainder of her sentence in prison.
“There will be terms and conditions she’ll have to agree with, and if she doesn’t comply with that, the probation officer can either issue internal sanctions or if they they’re serious enough, they can file a motion with the court and ask to have a hearing to determine whether or not to revoke her probation,” Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said.
Howe said Phelps will remain in a residential home for the tenure of her program then can go home for the remaining of her probation.
“I think it’s just her criminal history and her behavior,” Howe added. “After she was investigated and after she was charged, she tried to get a witness to change their story. And to us that was a pretty egregious act on her part, and she was caught and actually charged with that.”
According to court documents, Shawnee police responded to a fire at a home near West 69th Street and Switzer Road in February.
Firefighters said Phelps and the toddler’s father, Nicholas Ecker, 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.
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.
Ecker is charged with first-degree murder and arson in the crime. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in August. He is scheduled to be back in court in December.
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