Statute of limitations could factor into manslaughter case

Tim Hrenchir
Hays Daily News

It's been almost eight years since an infant died in 2013 at the Hays day care center then operated by Michelle N. Sarver.

One contested issue as the case moves forward will involve whether its statute of limitations expired before new Ellis County Attorney Robert A. Anderson Jr. charged Sarver this year with involuntary manslaughter, Anderson acknowledged Thursday.

Statute of limitations laws ban prosecutors from charging an accused person with a crime committed more than a specific number of years earlier. After the time period has ended, the crime can no longer be prosecuted.

The key purpose of statute of limitations laws is to ensure the prompt prosecution of criminal charges and to consequently spare the accused of the burden of having to defend against stale charges after memories have faded or evidence is lost.

Kansas law specifically says the state has no statute of limitations for murder, rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, terrorism or illegal use of weapons of mass destruction, while calling for a five-year statute of limitations for most other crimes.

But Anderson suggested that Kansas law isn't entirely clear regarding how statutes of limitations apply here to involuntary manslaughter.

Anderson, who became county attorney on Jan. 11, charged Sarver March 23 with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, in the Aug. 10, 2013, death of an 8-week-old infant at the Michelle Sarver Day Care Home. The child's name and gender haven't been made public.

In an order issued in August 2013 suspending Sarver's day care license, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the infant died after being propped up by pillows and a blanket for a nap on a bed, then left unattended for about 30 minutes.

The child was subsequently found to not be breathing, at which point Sarver initiated CPR and called an ambulance. The infant later died at Wichita's Wesley Medical Center.

Sarver was served by summons earlier this year in the case and not taken into custody. A preliminary hearing is set to take place Aug. 17 to determine whether sufficient probable cause exists to try her for the crime.