The mother of a baby who tragically died in a collision involving an off-duty cop now faces a negligent homicide charge after police say she did not properly secure her daughter in the car seat.
On Tuesday, officers took Brittany Stephens, 20, into custody after they discovered her child’s car seat wasn’t secured correctly and the straps were not properly fit for her daughter’s height, according to an arrest report acquired by The Advocate. A Baton Rouge cop was also taken into custody and faces the same charge after plowing into Stephen’s vehicle at a speed of 94 MPH on October 12. The crash resulted in the death of Stephen’s daughter and several other suffered various injuries.
Authorities argued that the mother’s failure to secure the seat to the vehicle and the “loose straps” played a part in the child’s death and demonstrated Stephens’s “gross negligence” in regards to her child’s safety.
The young mother confirmed to police that she did strap her daughter in that night, however, she was not the driver of the vehicle. The three other passengers traveling with Stephens leading up to the incident were given traffic citations, police spokesperson Sgt. L’Jean McKneely said. He pointed out that there were more occupants in the car than were available seats.
The fatal accident happened at about 8 p.m. when Officer Christopher Manuel, who was not on duty at the time, crashed his Corvette into the Nissan the four adults and four children were riding in, The Advocate reported. Manuel was going nearly 100 MPH when he slammed into the passenger side of the vehicle.
All occupants inside of the Nissan were transported to a local hospital, but Stephen’s one-year-old daughter did not survive. Breea Gross, 18, the driver at the time, received a citation for driving without a license, plus an additional three counts of child safety restraint violation and a seat belt violation. Seth Eames, one of the passengers, was also issued a citation for a seatbelt violation while Janice Gross, 40, was cited for letting an unlicensed driver operate her vehicle, according to the tabloid.
As for Manuel, he was taken into custody Feb. 16 — almost four months after the crash. Since the time of the accident, he’s been on paid administrative leave, police said, and posted $15,000 bail the same day he was booked into jail.
Stephens was released Wednesday after posting $3,600 bail.