Cousin Arrested in Death of 6-Year-Old Girl Who Froze to Death (VIDEO)

The mystery of a little 6-year-old girl who was found frozen to death outside of her home in February in frigid temperatures has concluded with the arrest of her cousin, 22-year-old Rachel Downer. Mercedes Mayfield was found unconscious in the entrance to her apartment building on a night when temps dipped to - 40 degrees. The girl was dressed but may have been outside overnight, something that would have been difficult for an adult to survive, let alone a child. Downer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and felony neglect of a child.

No one seems to know yet exactly how the girl ended up outside. Had she wandered outside and no one noticed? Had she been outside and her caretaker went to sleep and forgot about her? Oddly, it wasn't even her cousin who called 911, it was a neighbor as well as the girl's mother -- so if the girl's mother was around, why is it her cousin who has been arrested? Perhaps the mother had left the cousin in charge of the girl and when she came home, discovered the girl frozen in the entryway.

Another mystery is how the girl got into the entry -- did she go there herself, or was she found unconscious outside and brought inside? Had she dressed herself and went outside, or did someone dress her and put her outside and then didn't let her back in?

Whatever happened, police must believe that this wasn't just a terrible accident, but there was severe recklessness and neglect involved for the cousin to be charged.

What a tragedy for the family for Mercedes to die in such a cruel and horrific fashion -- frozen to death when steps away there was warmth and help if only she could have gotten to it. 

What do you think happened?



Image via Bemidji Police Deparment

crime, death


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Horrible, but sketchy. Also "care taker" is an undertaker, it should be "care giver". Hope the truth comes out and if someone is truly guilty I hope they hang.

missy... missybest

These horror stories are really too, too much.  The vicious, neglectful, uncaring people - whatever the cause for their actions - are really too much for words.  Who does not know where their small, young children are all the time?  Not knowing where the are and that they are safe - 5-10 minutes tops.  Unbelievable!  Sick, sad, and inexcusable!  Poor, poor baby!

Nelli... NellieAthome

So missybest - does this mean that you physically check on your child every 10 minutes all night long?

While we do not know the details of this incident I can clearly remember my 4 year old cousin who got up from bed, got dressed, let himself out and walked to our house..... and the adults found out when they got up in the minoring (his mom when she looked in his room, my dad when he opened the front door to get the paper and found Benny sitting there sound asleep). Perhaps, just perhaps these people  knew "where their small, young children are all the time" just like you do and my aunt did.


@ Nellie: That reminded me of the time I was on the phone with my next door neighbor and I told her to hold on because someone was at the door ,well, it was her 2yo son . It definitely can happen. Thankfully I was just next door.

LeeshaE LeeshaE

@Nellie agree it can happen my dad was an escape artist by 3. He could scale a chain link fence and be out of sight in the time it took Grams to change a diaper. He also would get up before his parents climb on top of the counter to reach the high cupboards where the deadbolt key was kept "out of reach" and would go visit the elderly neighbors and score free cookies.

Pixie030 Pixie030

My cousin had DHS called on her once when her and her husband had spent the night at another couple's house one night and even with four adults sleeping in the home, her young son and daughter decided to crawl out the doggy door because there was a playground right across the street and they wanted to go play. And yes the doggy door had been closed before the adults went to bed but like other kids from the commenters, her son was a little escape artist. So it happens but what I don't understand is I have a 6 yr old.. He def. knows how to open a door so I am thinking their front door was locked from the inside, also I know he has knocked on neighbor's doors just cause so I am hoping that if there was an emergency like that one that he would know to knock on others doors to ask for help if he got locked outside our home.

Bless Marie Paquette

when i was 2 i could climb on top of the refrigerator and could pull out the window screen.  one morning i got up and pulled out the screen and climbed down the apartment stairs and crossed a really busy street to get to the candy store.  my parents found out i was gone pretty quickly and came and got me tho.  but they always told stories of what a monkey and escape artist i was.  it scared my mother half to death. once when i was 4 i wanted to go to the park so i grabbed the keys and started the car! my dad heard the car and came running and i remember him being so scared and being so confused by it because i didn't  know how dangerous it was.  kids do that stuff.  

Nelli... NellieAthome

I have no idea why there has not been a follow up story here

Apparently mom was injured at work and on pain killers, she arranged for her niece to stay overnight to help with the kids. After mom took meds and went to sleep niece changed her mind about staying, 6 year old helped her take her stuff to the car, niece "watched"; kid go back to building and assumed kid could get back in (apparently fire door closed on last trip to car trapping kid outside, mom  woke in morning and called niece saying "why did you take her, she has school today"; and then found child locked outside when niece told her she had not taken the child with her.

So, mom did what she could to see kids were watched while she was zonked on pain meds and niece let her down in an horrendous way

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