Judge Sends Evanston Couple To Felony Court For Death Of Baby Found In Filth

An Evanston couple were bound over to felony-level court Monday in the death of their 9-month-old girl, who died after living in putrid filth the judge called “the worst of the worst.”

Clair McFarland

April 08, 20244 min read

Tevin Medina and Bailey Bettinson
Tevin Medina and Bailey Bettinson (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

An Evanston judge said Monday he had “no trouble whatsoever” sending two parents accused of killing their baby to a felony-level court.

Tevin Medina, who turns 31 this year, and Bailey Bettinson, who turns 23 this year, were jailed last week on allegations they killed their 9-month-old baby, Renezmae, in October.

Evanston Circuit Court Judge Michael Greer sent them both to the felony-level Uinta County Circuit Court after a Monday preliminary hearing.

The baby was cold to the touch when police arrived at the couple’s Evanston apartment before 5 a.m. Oct. 20, according to court testimony given Monday.

Renezmae reportedly had a deep and severe rash in her genital and bottom area, which medical personnel described as diaper rash. She was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterward.

Police searched the home and discovered animal feces on the floor and walls, possible vomit or feces on a bed where the baby had slept, baby bottles blackened with a mold-like growth, loose knives, tattoo equipment, and other clutter and filth, according to court testimony.

Human Failing

The baby’s cause of death was undetermined, though forensic pathologist Dr. Randall Frost, of Lander, said he could not rule out asphyxia.

Medina’s attorney Kent Reed Brown emphasized this at the hearing, saying the facts of a home being filthy and a baby having an apparently nonlethal rash do not make her parents guilty of manslaughter or child abuse.

“Every human failing does not become a crime,” said Brown, quoting from a former prosecutor who is now a judge. “And we just don’t have a crime here.”

Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson Kallas, the case prosecutor, had examined two police witnesses during the hearing. Her questioning focused on the baby’s rash, bruising on her arm, the filth of the home, past Department of Family Services interventions and other concerning or peculiar circumstances surrounding the baby’s death.

Brown said Howieson Kallas did not demonstrate what actually killed the baby.

“Diaper rash is the worst thing we’ve got,” said Brown, who had floated the term sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as the cause of the baby’s death. “I’d ask you to dismiss both counts.”

‘Worst Of The Worst’

Greer said he would normally allow Howieson Kallas to give a rebuttal argument, but there was no need.

He referenced photographs — presented at length by Howieson Kallas — of the baby’s diaper rash and of the putrid home in which she either died or drew near to death.

“I’ve seen probably more dirty house cases than all of you folks combined,” said Greer. “This is among the worst of the worst.”

Greer also said the diaper rash was “downplayed” during court testimony, and the actual rash was much worse than simple diaper rash.

“I don’t even find this to be a close case, folks,” said Greer, who then qualified that that was in the context of the probable cause hearing. The prosecutor still will have to show proof of manslaughter and child abuse beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, which is a far more rigorous standard of proof.

Enough Evidence

During Brown’s back-and-forth with investigators, he clarified a few details about the case.

The baby girl’s genital rash was so severe, it appeared to penetrate into the tissue below the skin, Evanston Police Detective Scott Faddis said in court.

“Did anybody talk about any kind of penetration? Physical injury? Blunt-force injury?” asked Brown.

The autopsy did not note any signs of penetration or blunt-force trauma, Faddis answered.

Faddis also testified that the baby was bleeding from her mouth when police encountered her, and she left a trail of blood leading outside to where her mother performed CPR on her.

Referencing the mystery substances on the caked and soiled bed on which the baby had lain, Brown asked Evanston Police Sgt. Shawn Stahl whether police took the sheets or carpet for state laboratory testing.

They had not, Stahl said.

“I’m curious, at the time did you think you were just investigating sudden infant death syndrome, not a crime?” asked Brown.

“No,” Stahl answered.

“Didn’t need evidence?” asked Brown.

“We thought we were collecting enough evidence,” answered Stahl.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter