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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) -- Prosecutors have announced they will not seek the death penalty against Kelley Jean Lodmell, who is accused in the abduction and presumed drowning of her 19-month-old granddaughter.
Bonneville County Prosecutor Dane Watkins Jr. said Wednesday that based on evidence and Lodmell's mental state, he does not believe the death penalty would be appropriate.
He said he made the decision after consulting with police and the family of the child, Acacia Bishop.
Lodmell, 38, pleaded innocent Wednesday to Idaho charges of murder and kidnapping. She also was to appear in federal court in Salt Lake City Thursday on a federal kidnapping charge. The state and federal charges carry potential sentences of life in prison.
Lodmell, who according to relatives suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, allegedly took the child from her great-grandparents' Salt Lake County home May 25. They spent the night at an Idaho Falls motel.
Shortly before noon on May 26, Lodmell, who was soaking wet, told a power plant employee that her granddaughter had slipped into the Snake River. Police said her story changed during interviews and they concluded that she had jumped in the river with the girl in an attempted murder-suicide.
The child's body has not been found and her parents are holding out hope that Lodmell lied and gave Acacia to someone in Idaho Falls.
In Idaho Falls on Wednesday, 7th District Judge Jon Shindurling put off setting a trial date because of pending action on the federal charges, but scheduled an Aug. 27 status hearing.
Federal prosecutors want Lodmell to spend 60 days to 90 days in a federal facility for a mental evaluation.
Bonneville County Public Defender Neal Randall wants the state case to proceed. He contends there is insufficient evidence to convict Lodmell on the murder charge.
Law enforcement officials are still trying to find Acacia's body, and a search by plane is planned for sometime this week, Watkins said.
"Will we go to trial with a body? Will we go to trial without a body? Perhaps," Watkins said.
Acacia's parents, who remain in Idaho Falls, had different reactions to the prosecutor's decision not to seek the death penalty.
"If our child turns up dead, I say, if you took a life -- that's an eye for an eye," the father, Adam Bishop, told the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City. "It was malicious. That's one of the worst ways to kill someone -- drowning them."
However, the child's mother, Casey Lodmell, told the newspaper, "I would rather (she) serve life in prison, because I feel she would suffer more for the rest of her life. Death's the easy way out."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)