Centralia mom to face charges in 2-year-old daughter's death

CENTRALIA, Wash. -- A mother whose boyfriend was sentenced Wednesday to over 37 years in prison for the abusive death of her 2-year-old daughter will now also face charges related to the toddler's death, prosecutors said Thursday.

Becky Heupel is expected to be charged Friday with second-degree criminal mistreatment, said Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

Heupel's daughter Koralynn Fister drowned in a bathtub last May while being watched by Heupel's boyfriend, James Reeder. But investigators discovered that Reeder had repeatedly raped the child and hurt her so badly that patches of skin were missing from her body and her toes, prosecutors said.

"After reviewing all the evidence and speaking with the officers who investigated the case as well as the deputes who handled the prosecution of Mr. Reeder, it is my office's belief that (Heupel) was reckless in her actions and knew of the dangers and chose to disregard that," Meyer said. "And obviously it had tragic consequences."

Reeder accepted an Alford Plea in January where he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that he would likely be convicted. Wednesday, he was sentenced to 37 years after a scathing statement from Thurston County Judge James Lawler saying he wished he could sentence him to 100 years.

Heupel didn't speak at the sentencing, instead having a victim's advocate read her written statement that expressed her anger at Reeder:

"You took both precious gifts of God away from me," Heupel wrote. "You betrayed everyone's trust but most of all my little defenseless baby. Pretending to help me and all the while using my beloved daughter for your own evilness."

But after the sentencing concluded, prosecutors informed Heupel that she too will be charged in the case.

Meyer expressed sympathy for the mother but said she must be punished for her choices.

"We know that what (Reeder) did was unspeakable and he deserved to be punished and he was punished," Meyer said. "And my office wants to make sure everyone who was responsible is being held accountable. We believe she had a role in it as well, by knowing what the risk was being advised of the risk and choosing to put her relationship with Mr. Reeder above the health and welfare of her daughter. "

If Heupel is convicted, the standard sentencing range is 6-12 months, prosecutors said. Meyer said it is unlikely Heupel would be taken into custody.