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Woman admits letting three-year-old son freeze to death outside house while she slept off drug binge

Caroline Mortimer
Jamie Bassinger was sentenced to between 19 and 32 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter: Burke County

A mother has admitted to letting her three-year-old son freeze to death outside her house while she slept off a drug binge.

Jamie Basinger pleaded guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of Landyn Melton and he 24-year-old will be expected to serve 36 months of supervised probation and between 19 and 32 months of prison time, after cutting a plea deal with Prosecutors in her home town of Morganton, North Carolina.

Basinger's mother, Brenda Basinger, said it was something her daughter was "going to have to live with this the rest of her life."

“She’s going to have a battle, we all are, she told the Morganton News Herald, adding that she still had unanswered questions about the three-year-old's death.

Landyn was found dead on 15 March after a neighbour called the police when they spotted him laying on the porch.

Assistant District Attorney Michelle Lippert said when he arrived at the scene he knocked so hard on the door "he was surprised he did not break the storm door glass".

He said Basinger's boyfriend, Joshua Steffey, answered the door and went to find Jamie. Both later admitted they smoking meth two days before Landyn's death and marijuana the night before.

Basinger's attorney, Frank Webster, said she had cooperated with the authorities because she wanted answers herself and was grief-stricken at her son's death.

He told the court: “She didn’t understand this. It didn’t make sense to her."

He added: “When this happened, when she saw Landyn laying on the porch, she broke down in tears, falling on the ground. She’s really never stopped crying since, your honour.”

But smudged fingerprints on the glass door demonstrated the little boy had tried to get inside before he died – meaning Basinger's negligence led to his death, Ms Lippert argued.

She said Landyn had blood on his face but there was no sign of trauma on the autopsy report.

The boy had gone to live with his mother a few weeks beforehand, shortly after his third birthday. He had previously been living with Ms Brenda Basinger.

Mr Webster claimed initial investigators had asked Basinger leading questions which meant she admitted her drug use and therefore prejudiced the case against her.

He said if drugs had not been involved Landyn's death would likely have been recorded as accidental. He and Basinger had rejected a plea deal in November, protesting her innocence, but Mr Webster said the majority of the community had turned against her.

As part of Basinger's probation she must complete a substance abuse assessment within 30 days and the recommended treatment for the first year.

She will also have to complete 72 hours of community service and obey court orders which have been imposed in relation to her other child. 

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