CASSOPOLIS — A St. Joseph man has pleaded no contest to child abuse and manslaughter in the 2016 death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter in Silver Creek Township near Dowagiac.
Lance Reeves, 46, of Pearl Street in St. Joseph, was in Cass County Circuit Court Monday afternoon to make his pleas. He had been set to go to trial today on one charge of open murder and three counts of child abuse.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle announced the plea agreement in court Monday. She said Reeves has agreed to plead no contest to one count of second-degree child abuse and an added count of manslaughter. He is pleading no contest because of potential civil liability.
Reeves is set to be sentenced before Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman on Friday, Oct. 4 at 8:30 a.m. No agreement has been made as to what Reeves’ sentence will be, but he faces maximum sentences of 10 years in prison on the child abuse charge and 15 years in prison on the manslaughter charge.
The manslaughter incident occurred nearly three years ago on Oct. 19, 2016 at a home in Silver Creek Township. The child abuse incidents occurred between April and October of 2016.
While the autopsy on the 2 year old girl stated her death was the result of a homicide, the investigation into her death was delayed in part due to autopsy results not coming back for seven months. Reeves was arrested last December.
Michigan State Police Detective Sergeant Douglas Kill testified Monday that the autopsy showed that the girl died from a traumatic injury to her torso that resulted in paralysis, her spine being severed and nearly instant death. At the time of her death, she had over 20 contusions on her body.
Kill said the doctor conducting the autopsy reported that the girl had been shaken and slammed down with force greater than what she would have received in a fall.
Kill said he spoke to others during his investigation, including a friend of Reeves who said Reeves told him that he thought he had killed the little girl. Another person said she witnessed Reeves shaking the girl violently at a campground near the St. Joseph County-Cass County line in April 2016.