YOLO COUNTY—The 23-year-old mother of the infant found dead in a remote slough near Knights Landing in late February will now face a murder charge rather than involuntary manslaughter. Yolo County prosecutors amended the complaint against Samantha Green on Wednesday, but did not comment on why the charges changed, citing a gag order on the case.
Prior to her March 4 hearing, investigators had considered a murder charge against Green in the death of 20-day-old Justice Rees. Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto also said she would likely face a murder charge after her February 28 arrest, but prosecutors initially charged her with involuntary manslaughter instead.
Jennifer Mouzis, a defense attorney who has been following the case, says it’s not unheard of for charges to change. “Complaints are amended all of the time. They are amended early on in the investigation and court process. It appears in at least this case, they may have developed additional facts that would change their opinion about the culpability of the mother.”
While prosecutors haven’t commented, Mouzis says additional witnesses or evidence may have led prosecutors to feel Green deserved the higher charge, and the autopsy may have yielded more information. “That takes anywhere from days to months. I’ve seen it take up to a year for an autopsy to come back with a final conclusion,” she said.
Green made a frantic call to 911 on February 24 from the backyard of a home in Knights Landing saying she could not find her baby. Searchers located the baby’s body the next day. Early autopsy results suggested Justice died from drowning or hypothermia.
Green will appear in court on March 13 at 8:30 am. in Yolo Superior Court.
Meanwhile, Justice’s father Frank Rees is free after posting bail on March 6 following his arrest the same day for possessing drugs, paraphernalia and ammunition as a former felon, in addition to violating parole. He had been held in lieu of $45,000 bail on the allegations.
Yolo County sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at the Woodland home Rees and his children share with Rees’ parents. Deputies found methamphetamine, a smoking pipe and ammo. The arrest came just days after his March 4 court date in Woodland where he was arraigned on traffic-related violations unrelated to Justice’s death.
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