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Godmother pleads not guilty to killing baby with metal pipe


Sam Morris

Mariann Harris is arraigned in district court Thursday, September 8, 2011. Harris pleaded not guilty to the beating death of 14-month-old Dyon Johnson.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 | 11:44 a.m.

Mariann Harris Arraignment

Mariann Harris is arraigned in district court Thursday, September 8, 2011. Harris pleaded not guilty to the beating death of 14-month-old Dyon Johnson. Launch slideshow »

A trial date has been set for November for a woman accused of killing her goddaughter with a green metal pipe earlier this month in a Las Vegas home.

Mariann Harris, 23, pleaded not guilty this morning to one count of murder, one count of child abuse and neglect with a deadly weapon and two other counts of child abuse and neglect in connection with the death of 14-month-old Dyon Johnson. The last two counts of child abuse were for two other children in Harris’ care.

Deputy Public Defender Scott Coffee had advised Harris to waive her right to a speedy trial, but Harris told Clark County Judge Abbi Silver she wanted to talk about the case more. Silver suggested to Harris that she take her public defender's advice and give him more time to prepare her case, considering that she could face a sentence of life imprisonment, or life without parole.

However, Silver decided to go ahead and put her trial on the court calendar for 1 p.m. Nov. 7 in Clark County District Court. The judge told Harris that the trial could still be delayed.

Coffee had told the judge he wouldn’t be ready to proceed that quickly. Also, Chief Deputy District Attorney David Stanton told the judge that some of the results of the tests performed during the autopsy wouldn’t be available for about six to eight weeks, so he might have to ask for a continuance.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office has ruled the baby’s death a homicide caused by blunt head trauma and child abuse.

Harris was arrested Aug. 24 in California in connection with Dyon’s death and was extradited Aug. 27 to Las Vegas, where she is being held without bail in the Clark County Detention Center.

According to police, the girl’s mother, Jannett Simms said she dropped off Dyon, who she said was healthy, at Harris’ house to stay for a few days.

The arrest report says that just before midnight Aug. 12, the 1-year-old girl was taken to University Medical Center with fresh injuries.

A fire captain who arrived at the scene said Dyon was "cold to the touch" and an EMT noticed extensive bruising to the baby’s face, although Harris claimed she found the child lying on the floor having trouble breathing. She changed her previous story that Dyon had fallen down the stairs, police said.

Two of Harris’ young children later said in an interview that their mother beat Dyon in the kitchen. When officers issued a search warrant they found a green metal pipe from a bar stool in the kitchen with a hair tie similar to ones in Dyon’s hair.

Harris accused officers of bringing in the pipe, but the first officer to arrive said the pipe already was in the home.

A neighbor also told police she saw Harris hitting Dyon very hard on the back the day before the child died.

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