SKOWHEGAN — A Fairfield woman who is serving prison time for manslaughter in connection with the death of her newborn son in January 2016 was back in court this week as her parents seek court-ordered rights to visit with the woman’s 3-year-old daughter.
Kayla Stewart, 21, appeared in court Monday on a writ from the Maine Correctional Center in South Windham for a petition for grandparents’ rights filed by Lucille and Randall Stewart, her adoptive parents. The Stewarts are seeking legal visitation privileges under the state’s Grandparents’ Visitation Act.
Following the discovery by authorities on Jan. 11, 2016, of Kayla Stewart’s infant — whose body was found in a garage on Norridgewock Road in Fairfield — the 3-year-old daughter lived with the elder Stewarts. The child now lives with Nicholas Blood, 26, her biological father, in Fairfield, according to Waterville attorney Pamela Ames, who is representing Kayla Stewart.
The adoptive parents’ request for court-ordered visitation rights is apparently opposed by Blood but supported by Kayla Stewart.
“It’s very straightforward. This was filed actually prior to Kayla being sentenced,” Ames said in an interview Tuesday. “There were a number of things the Department of Health and Human Services were looking at. They filed this, which is their right to do, to get some court-ordered visitation as opposed to being kind of at the discretion of Nicholas and or Kayla.”
The 3-year-old remained with the grandparents from Jan. 11 to Oct. 12, 2016, when the daughter was returned to live with Blood, according to court documents.
Blood has contended that Lucille and Randall Stewart did not have “a substantial parental role” in the 3-year-old’s life, documents show.
Attorneys Tom Nale, of Waterville, and Mark Fortier, of Skowhegan, who are listed as assisting Blood in the hearings, did not return calls for comment on the case Tuesday.
Kayla Stewart pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge in January and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but nine years suspended, followed by four years of probation. Blood was never charged in connection with the infant’s death.
Ames said Blood is contesting a formal visitation order. An interim order allowing contact between the child and the grandparents was approved in December, but Ames said the Stewarts want something more binding and permanent.
It is difficult to win visitation rights in court if the parents do not want the grandparents involved. The court will grant visitation rights only in certain limited circumstances, including the death of one of the parents and the existence of sufficient relationship between the grandparents and the child, according to Maine law. The court also must consider the best interests of the child.
“It is a grandparent’s action that her parents filed as a family matter,” Ames said. “Her parents filed a grandparents’ rights visitation request. The mediation on that was yesterday.”
Ames said the sides reached a mediation agreement, but the deal has not yet become part of the record, so details of it were not available Tuesday. The agreement is not finalized and signed by the judge yet, she said.
She said Kayla is not opposed to the visitation by her parents.
The interim order for visitation was approved beginning Dec. 9, meaning Lucille and Randall Stewart could have contact with the child every Monday and Friday from noon until 7 p.m., according to court documents. They would be responsible for the pickup and drop-off of the child, who carries Blood’s last name.
Neither party is allowed to engage in any video recording of the child and no one is allowed to discuss Kayla Stewart’s case in the presence of the child. Kayla is allowed under the interim order to have contact by phone with the child, either at her parents’ house or Blood’s home.
When the child was born in November 2013, Kayla and Nicholas were living on Benton Avenue in Winslow, according to court documents. A week after the birth, the couple moved in with Lucille and Randall Stewart and later moved in with Blood’s grandparents in Benton.
Blood, Kayla Stewart and the baby later moved into the house at 457 Norridgewock Road in Fairfield, where the newborn infant’s death occurred.
By pleading guilty to manslaughter, Stewart had the original charge of murder dismissed by the prosecution and waived her right to a trial either by jury or judge. Stewart also will have to pay restitution for fees incurred during a funeral service for the infant.
Authorities found the baby’s remains Jan. 11, 2016. The child’s date of birth listed in an indictment against Stewart is Dec. 30, the same day the crime occurred.
Assistant Attorney General John Alsop said the deceased baby was named Evan James Blood.
State prosecutors say that after Stewart gave birth to the full-term, healthy baby boy and killed him by either smothering or suffocating the child, or by leaving him in a cold, unheated garage to die. She told a state police detective that she “made sure” the baby was dead.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367