Toddler's Grandmother to Stand Trial in Murder

Toddler's Grandmother to Stand Trial in Murder

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) -- A woman with a history of mental illness told investigators that she wanted to kill herself and her 19-month-old granddaughter when she jumped into the Snake River, a detective testified on Tuesday.

At a preliminary hearing for Kelley Jean Lodmell, Detective John Cowley said Lodmell told him she was angry that she was being kept away from Acacia Patience Bishop.

"She indicated she'd taken the child in an apparent murder-suicide attempt, and she said the baby would be her little angel," Cowley told Magistrate L. Mark Riddoch as Lodmell, 38, sat passively in the courtroom.

After the preliminary hearing, which continued into late Tuesday afternoon, Riddoch will decide whether Lodmell will stand trial for first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault in the Memorial Day drowning death of the toddler.

Acacia was taken from her Salt Lake County home May 25 and believed killed the next day in the Snake River at Idaho Falls.

Tuesday's initial testimony came as law enforcement officers continued searching the river for the girl's body.

Acacia's parents -- Lodmell's daughter Casey and the child's father, Adam Bishop -- reiterated their belief that their daughter is still alive, although investigators have found nothing to support that.

The family has offered a $10,000 reward for the child's safe return. Before Tuesday's hearing, Casey Lodmell issued a statement urging people to continue to look for the toddler.

"We will not stop searching for her," she said. "I would like to plead with each of you to help us look and listen for our baby. She is out there somewhere, and if someone is watching that has our baby, Acacia, please return her to us."

Lodmell brought her granddaughter to Idaho Falls after taking the child from a relative's home in Salt Lake County. The great-grandparents were baby-sitting while Acacia's parents were attending a wedding rehearsal dinner.

Lodmell had been limited to supervised visits but apparently took the child while the great-grandparents -- Lodmell's parents -- were briefly gone from the room. The child's disappearance prompted a nationwide Amber Alert.

Lodmell and the child spent the night in an Idaho Falls motel. Police said a witness saw the two of them the next morning in a downtown riverside park just above a municipal power plant.

Shortly after noon, a soaking-wet Lodmell told a power plant employee that a child had fallen into the river. The power turbine was shut down immediately, but days of searching by divers yielded no sign of the child.

Lodmell talked with police for hours, her story reportedly changing over time. But based on the interviews and other evidence, investigators concluded she had attempted a murder-suicide.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Utah was monitoring the case pending possible federal charges against Lodmell.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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