McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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April 9, 2012

McAlester woman pleads guilty to manslaughter

McALESTER — A McAlester woman pleaded guilty today in Pittsburg County District Court to second degree manslaughter.

Kayla Nicole Maxwell, 22, of the Bucks of Gaines Creek area of McAlester, was convicted of second degree manslaughter in relation to the drowning of her young child, Layla Marie Spates.

On Oct. 26, Maxwell put her 11-month-old daughter in the bath tub with her two-and-a-half-year-old son, according to a police affidavit, and then left the bathroom to clean the kitchen floor.

According to a statement Maxwell gave authorities, when she returned to the bathroom, she found the child floating face down in the bath water and unresponsive.

According to the affidavit, the medical examiners office ruled the infant’s manner of death as “accidental drowning.”

On Oct. 27, the young child’s father, Maxwell Spates, wrote a voluntary statement that indicated that he, and Kayla Maxwell, had argued numerous times over her leaving the children in the bathtub alone.

According to the affidavit, the child’s father told authorities that he and Kayla Maxwell had ended their dating relationship, and he moved out, about two weeks prior to the baby’s death.

The infant’s paternal grandmother, Joyce Spates, of Oklahoma City, contacted the News-Capital in December and said, “This was a 100 percent unnecessary death of our precious baby Layla and we are praying that there will be a resolution that will bring some sort of justice for Layla.”

After pleading guilty, Maxwell was fined $550 and received a four-year suspended sentence. She was also ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to partially reimburse the Spates family for Layla Spates’ burial expenses and she was ordered to have no contact with any member of the Spates family. When asked outside the courtroom Monday if she had anything to say, Maxwell said, “No Ma’am.”

District 18 First Assistant District Attorney Richard Hull said, “The Spates family is in the courtroom today ... they had been consulted about this offer long in advance and have approved the offer.”

“We just wanted justice for Layla,” said Robert Spates, the child’s paternal grandfather. “But nothing is going to bring her back.”

The child’s father, Maxwell Spates, agreed with the plea bargaining agreement but was still unhappy with the results. “I think the system is kind of weak for letting someone get away with manslaughter.” He then mentioned that people convicted of animal abuse can get up to five years prison time. “You’re punished more for hurting a dog than killing a child,” he said.

Contact Rachel Petersen at

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone.

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