Wednesday, May 8, 2002 | 8:37 a.m.
A Las Vegas woman said Tuesday she intends to plead guilty to attempted child abuse and neglect for giving her 3-year-old keys to the car he ultimately died in.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Doug Herndon said Kenny Smith died in October 2000 after opening the trunk of his mother's car, crawling inside and accidentally locking himself inside.
Although prosecutors initially declined to press charges against the boy's mother, Deanna Evans, felony child abuse and neglect charges were filed when she later told workers from the Child and Protective Services department she had given the boy the keys although she knew he could get into the car, Herndon said.
It was also discovered Evans was on drugs at the time of the incident, Herndon said.
Evans agreed to take a deal Tuesday -- moments before her preliminary hearing was to be held by Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Deborah Lippis.
Evans, who is working to regain custody of three other children, will formally plead guilty before District Judge Michael Cherry May 21, Herndon said.
As a result of the plea agreement, Evans will spend 30 days in jail and serve five years' probation, Herndon said. Should she violate probation, she could get a four- to 10-year prison sentence.
Herndon said he offered the deal after speaking with state caseworkers, who said Evans has improved her parenting skills with their assistance.
In addition, unlike cases in which children are left unattended in a bathtub, the outcome in this case could not be predicted, Herndon said.
"I don't think it was foreseeable to her that if she gave the boy the keys that he was going to lock himself in the trunk and die," Herndon said.
According to authorities, Evans called police on Oct. 19, 2000, saying her son was missing from the home on Demetrius Avenue. The mother told officers she had taken a nap about 9:30 a.m. and when she woke up about noon, her son was missing.
She searched for her missing child for about two hours, then called police.
Officers found the boy in the trunk of the car at 2:48 p.m. and he was taken to the hospital, where he died three days later.
Defense attorney Steve Altig said his client was charged more than a year after the death of the child and while she was still attending grief counseling.
If the case had gone to trial, he would have argued the boy could have gotten hold of the keys after awakening from a nap he took with his mother, Altig said.
"This was a tragic situation for everybody involved in the case," Altig said. "We had a number of defensible issues, but my client decided it would be better for her and her family to resolve the case and start the healing process over again."