Child abuse charges filed in Atwater baby’s death

08/15/2014 9:17 PM

08/17/2014 8:23 AM

Criminal charges were filed Friday against an Atwater mother whose baby died earlier this year, apparently after a dresser fell on top of him.

Amanda Klaas, 19, faces a single felony count of child abuse in Merced Superior Court, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday.

If convicted, Klaas faces a maximum state prison sentence of six years, according to Nicole Silveira, the Merced County deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.

“After a very careful review of the evidence, we filed the charge we felt was most appropriate in this case,” Silveira said Friday. “It took a lot of time to review all of the evidence involved.”

Silveira said it was too soon to comment on any specifics in the case.

Klaas’ 2-year-old son, Levi, was found March 4 under a dresser in a bedroom at a home in the 1100 block of Vine Street. Investigators said the child was placed in the room with the door closed about 10 p.m. March 3 and wasn’t discovered until about 4 p.m. the following day.

Investigators said the child had been dead for at least several hours before law enforcement arrived on scene. Atwater police said it appeared the child may have been climbing the dresser when it fell over, pinning him to the ground.

Efforts to reach the child’s family were unsuccessful Friday.

Klaas’ friends and family members have defended her, describing her as a “great mother” and urging others to wait for all the facts to come out before passing judgment. She was described as a hard-working single mother who was taking care of her child while putting herself through classes at Merced Community College.

Relatives described Levi as a bright, fun-loving boy who was full of energy.

According to court documents obtained by the Merced Sun-Star, county Court Commissioner Shelly Seymour awarded Klaas full custody of the child Feb. 26, just six days before the child’s death, and allowed Klaas to change the child’s last name.

Klaas obtained at least two restraining orders against the father dating back to 2012, according to court documents.

No court dates had been scheduled as of Friday.

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