The mother of a baby killed in a crash involving an off-duty police officer has been charged with negligent homicide after authorities say she failed to properly secure her daughter in the car seat.
Police arrested 20-year-old Brittany Stephens on Tuesday after determining her child’s car seat wasn’t properly secured and the straps were not correctly adjusted for her daughter’s height, according to an arrest report obtained by The Advocate. A Baton Rouge officer was arrested on the same charge after slamming into Stephen’s car at 94 MPH on the night of Oct. 12, killing her daughter and injuring several others.
Police argued that the improper securing of the seat to the vehicle and the “loose straps” were contributing factors in the baby’s death and showed “gross negligence” on Stephen’s part.
Though she was not the driver, the young mother told police she was the one who strapped her daughter in that night. The three other adults who were traveling with Stephens at the time were issued traffic citations, police spokesperson Sgt. L’Jean McKneely said. He noted that there were more people riding in the car than were seats available.
The deadly crash occurred around 8 p.m. when Officer Christopher Manuel, who was off-duty at the time, slammed his Corvette into the Nissan carrying four adults and four kids, The Advocate reported. Manuel was approaching speeds of 100 mph when he plowed into the passenger side of the vehicle.
All passengers of the Nissan were taken to the hospital, but Stephen’s one-year-old child ultimately succumbed to her injuries. Breea Gross, 18, who was driving at the time, was cited for driving without a license, as well as three counts of child safety restraint violation and a seat belt violation. Passenger Seth Eames, 23, was also cited for a seatbelt violation while 40-year-old Janice Gross was cited for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate her car, according to the newspaper.
As for Manuel, he was arrested Feb. 16 — nearly four months after the crash. He’s been on paid administrative leave since the accident, police said, and posted $15,000 bail the same day he was booked into jail.
Stephens was released Wednesday after posting $3,600 bail.