By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
Along with her boyfriend, the mother of a 5-year-old girl who was allegedly murdered by a babysitter now has been arrested on drug charges in Kemmerer.
Kayla Kartchner, 27, is charged with two felony marijuana possession charges, each punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines, and a misdemeanor methamphetamine possession charge, punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Kartchner’s Jan. 4 arrest comes a few weeks after the Nov. 25 death of her 5-year-old daughter, the alleged victim in a first-degree murder case.
The girl’s babysitter, Cheri Marler, 51, is accused of beating the girl to death at her home and faces life in prison, or the death penalty. Marler’s prosecution is ongoing.
Jason Giek, Kartchner’s boyfriend, was arrested on felony marijuana possession charges as well, and a methamphetamine count that’s being charged as a felony because of his prior convictions.
Giek, who is 39, faces up to 15 years in prison and $25,000 in fines if convicted on all counts. He’s being held on a $30,000 cash or surety bond; Kartchner is in custody on a $15,000 cash or surety bond.
The Little Sister
Kartchner, who raised her voice repeatedly and spoke harshly to Kemmerer Circuit Court Judge Gregory S. Corpening during the pair’s Friday initial appearance, insisted that she’s not a flight risk even though she’s lived in Kemmerer less than a year.
The deceased girl’s younger sister remains in state custody, Kartchner said.
“I have my daughter in state’s custody,” she said. “There’s no flight risk period for me. … I can’t do nothing.”
During the investigation into the 5-year-old’s death, investigators discovered several injuries on the younger sister, including bruises, cuts and scrapes on her head, face, back, arms, legs and bottom.
‘Won’t Let Me Work’
When setting Kartchner’s bond, Corpening also considered her criminal history, which reportedly includes a 2016 misdemeanor theft conviction in Utah.
Kartchner said she was only “guilty by association” in that case.
Corpening asked Kartchner about a 2017 drug possession charge on which she received a deferral in Utah.
Kartchner insisted the case happened in 2015, not 2017.
“When I got here to do my booking, they did a typo ’cause I told them six years back; six years from this year would be 2015,” she said.
When Corpening asked Kartchner if she was employed, Kartchner said the townspeople of Kemmerer would not let her work and had signed a petition edging her out of employment after her daughter’s death.
“The town won’t let me work,” she said. “After my daughter was murdered, they put up a petition.”
Corpening reasoned that although Giek – a longtime Kemmerer resident – has stronger ties to the community, his far more extensive criminal history and felony-level meth charge could make him more of a flight risk than Kartchner, justifying a higher bond.
Unlike Kartchner, Giek didn’t dispute his bond amount.
“Your honor, I’ll probably end up sittin’ in here until I get all this worked out,” said Giek.
Both defendants are slated for a preliminary hearing Jan. 13.
Kartchner and Giek arrived at Marler’s house Nov. 25 after authorities found Kartchner’s daughter nearly dead in the home, according to court documents. The girl later died in a hospital after her pulse was briefly restored.
Marler told authorities at that time she’d been caring for the girl at Kartchner’s request.
Kartchner, when she arrived at the home, said she hadn’t seen her daughter for two or three days, according to an evidentiary affidavit in the case. Both Kartchner and Giek said they hadn’t noticed any bruises on the girl when they last saw her.
Police had found old and new bruising on the girl, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also says Kartchner’s younger daughter clung to Kartchner after she arrived on scene, moments before the child was taken into protective custody.
The 5-year-old had multiple rib injuries, the affidavit says, and a punctured lung, old and new head injuries, a broken back, cuts, scrapes and “countless bruises” on her entire body.
Marler reportedly “admitted” to the police chief that on the date of the girl’s death, she’d slapped and hit the girl five to 10 times “in a clapping motion” after becoming angry with her, the affidavit states.
“(She) explained it as though she was clapping with (the girl’s) head in the middle,” the document reads. The girl then went into a different room to lie down.
Marler walked in and found the girl unconscious, she related, with a large amount of mucous coming from her nostrils. Marler then called 911 and reported that the girl had fallen down the stairs, the affidavit states.
Marler also told the police she’d beaten the girl with kitchen utensils the day prior, the affidavit says.