Wagner, SD – Laurie Ellen Cournoyer was sentenced Thursday to 22 years in prison for her role in the death of a 2-year-old girl who was in her care last July.
The 29-year-old admitted in court that both she and her husband Taylor Cournoyer, 21, had been on a drug binge — high on meth, sleeping pills, and marijuana — while supposedly supervising several children including the girl who was killed.
The 2-year-old, RieLee Lovell, was under the care of the Cournoyer’s while her parents were going through a difficult stage in their relationship.
The toddler was strangled to death allegedly at the hands of an 11-year-old male relative of Cournoyer, and her body was placed in a closet.
The Cournoyer’s continued on with their marathon psychotropic bender for nearly a day-and-a-half.
Authorities were not contacted until nearly a day later about the toddler and only because one of the other children residing in the home, a Yankton Sioux tribal housing project residence, invited a neighbor to come over and see the body of the little girl stuffed in the closet.
Laurie received 10 years for methamphetamine possession and another five for keeping a place for the illicit substance and was given 10 years — eight of which were suspended — for having drugs in jail.
Laurie received another five years for failing to report the death of a child. In the state of South Dakota, it is a felony for a caretaker to knowingly fail to report the death of a child within six hours of the incident.
The South Dakota law was modeled after Caylee’s Law passed in Florida. Caylee’s Law was established after a national outcry over the high-profile death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony. Caylee was not reported missing by her mother Casey Anthony or other relatives until nearly 31 days after disappearing in Orlando, Florida in 2008.
The child’s (Caylee) desiccated remains were later discovered, and a murder trial ensued, though it was indeterminable based on the advanced state of the remains as to if the child died by accident or intent. Those responsible for the Caylee’s death have not brought to justice, nor was her mother ever charged with neglect. Since, it has become a felony to not report a missing child.
The 11-year-old boy was also taken into custody for strangling the toddler on July 3, 2012. Details of his involvement have not been released due to being a minor.
Laurie’s husband Taylor was too arrested in association to the child’s death and drug use. Last November, Charles Mix County Judge Bruce Anderson sentenced Taylor to 25 years in prison, the maximum charge for the use of methamphetamines and occupying a home where drugs were used. The sentencing was commuted closer to 13 years with the option of parole.
Laurie accepted responsibility for creating the environment which led to the unfortunate death of the toddler and expressed remorse to the court upon sentencing.