Karlie Phelps: Mom’s 18-year sentence commuted to PROBATION after conviction for infant son’s death

Karlie Phelps: Mom’s 18-year sentence commuted to PROBATION after conviction for infant son’s death
Karlie Phelps pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment charges stemming from the fire that killed her 17-month-old son (Johnson County Sheriff’s Office)

JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS: A Kansas woman who was initially convicted for her role in the death of her 17-month-old son earlier this year, will now serve three years of probation, so long as she stays out of trouble. Karlie Mae Phelps, 28, was granted as part of her sentence a “dispositional departure” by Johnson County District Court Judge Timothy P McCarthy. This means Phelps will serve her three years probation; however, if she violates the terms of her probation, Phelps could then have to serve her full sentence of 18 years in prison, according to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office.

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Phelps pleaded guilty in August to involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child in the death of her son, Nicholas Ecker Jr, who died in a February 13 house fire. Prosecutors requested that Phelps’ request for probation be denied, according to a press release from the Johnson County District, and asked Judge McCarthy to remand her to prison. 

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Ecker had previously been in a relationship with Phelps (Johnson County Sheriff’s Office)
Nicholas Adam Ecker, the infant's father,  lit the fire in a jealous rage, not realizing that the child was inside. He has since been charged with one count each of first-degree murder (Johnson County Sheriff’s Office)

Phelps told investigators that on the night of the incident she went to a residence in Wyandotte County and left the baby alone in his crib at her home in the 10500 block of West 69th Terrace. The baby's father, Nicholas Adam Ecker has since been charged with one count each of first-degree murder, aggravated arson with risk of bodily harm, and possession of a firearm by a felon, court records show. According to Law&Crime, Ecker was unaware that his child was in the house and apparently he lit the fire in a jealous rage later that evening. He had previously been in a relationship with Phelps, according to a police affidavit filed by Johnson County District Court. 

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Officers and firefighters responded to multiple 911 calls about a house fire at a single-family residence located in the 10000 block of West 69th Terrace at approximately 12.52 am on February 13. First responders found the home already engulfed in flames upon arriving at the scene. Firefighters found the infant boy’s body when they entered the home in a downstairs bedroom, the affidavit states. Ecker arrived at the scene at around 1.12 am, though he was not contacted by police. He allegedly stated that he came because he “had a ‘bad feeling,’” per the affidavit. Phelps arrived shortly after. An officer on the scene allegedly overheard her say, “I lit it, no I know I put it out. That would be an accident.” But she then began blaming Ecker for the fire.

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During a police interview described as voluntary, Phelps said she had left her child at home while she went to buy prescription medication. According to the affidavit, Phelps consented to a forensic download of her phone. The phone’s contents showed a series of text messages between Phelps and Ecker just prior to the deadly fire. 

On the night of the fire, Ecker wrote to Phelps, “what’s he doing. Where’s he at?” with regards to the baby, at 10.21 pm. Phelps responded, “well come see him when I get home. He’s w me.” At approximately 11.33 pm., Ecker again asks, “where’s jr?” Phelps responds that the baby is with her “at Jackie’s house.” Ecker sent Phelps a photo of a house that was captioned, “You ain’t at Jackie’s”, at around 12.06 am. Phelps then insisted that she was at Jackie’s; that assertion prompted a series of insults and invective from Ecker. Ecker called Phelps a “lying ass bitch,” and said, “I hate you.”

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“I’m blowing my head off,” Ecker continued, per the affidavit. Appearing to believe Phelps was with another man, Ecker also wrote, “You’re fucking around on me huh.” Ecker sent a photo of Valentine’s Day balloon at 12.33 am that appeared to have been taken from inside of Phelps’s house just minutes before the fire started. “Who got you that?” he wrote along with the image. Police said Ecker’s cell phone at 12.33 am pinged off of a cell tower located less than a mile from Phelps’s home. Several more messages were exchanged between the two prior to Phelps’s home going up in flames. Phelps did not reveal, based on the messages, that the child she shared with Ecker was actually inside the home. “I swear to god something is not right, I know it. I can feel it. Something is terribly wrong. Karlie, please call me!!!!!! Please something is wrong. I can feel something Isn’t right,” Ecker wrote at 12.57 am, according to the affidavit. That was after the authorities say the fire had been started.

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Phelps responded approximately one minute later. “Nothing is wrong wtf? You’re literally just pushing me over the top? It’s all about you??? Nothing is fucking wrong dude but with us,” she wrote. An autopsy conducted by the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the baby was alive while the blaze burned around him. The report stated that there was “soot in [the baby’s] airway” and that his lungs were “full of soot.” A forensics review at the Johnson County Criminalistics Laboratory determined that the fire “was incendiary or intentionally set” based on a study of “debris samples collected from multiple locations within the residence.” However, the lab review found “[n]o ignitable liquids” in its analysis, according to the court records.

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Nicholas Ecker has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is scheduled to appear in court again in December. 

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