SMYRNA — Kristie Haas has been reindicted on two counts of first-degree murder by abuse or neglect in connection with the death of 3-year-old Emma Grace Cole, whose remains were found near a Smyrna-Clayton Little Lass Softball field in September 2019.
All other charges remain in place, officials said. No future court date has been scheduled.
Former Smyrna residents Brandon Haas, 39, and his wife Ms. Haas, 28, were indicted in April after an investigation into the death of Emma Grace. Ms. Haas was the mother of the child.
“While their initial arrests brought some relief, we knew the mission was not complete until we were able to bring homicide charges in this case,” Smyrna Police Department spokesman Lt. Brian Donner said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Today culminates all that hard work and investigation.”
“Here was a 3-year-old victim stolen from the world,” Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said Tuesday. “These are the crimes that keep us up at night as law enforcement, as parents and as neighbors.”
The two counts of murder by abuse or neglect were “based upon different methods of committing murder,” AG Jennings said.
Regarding making the determination that the charges could be brought, AG Jennings said, “There were a multiple number of ways that the police and FBI were able to uncover a pattern of abuse and neglect.
“They included medical evidence, they included witness interviews, and I’ll leave it at that.”
A DOJ news release said “The original indictment alleged that Emma was the victim of child abuse before her death. Both Haases are alleged to have deprived Emma of sufficient food and needed medical attention and subjected Emma and her siblings to excessive forced exercise and inappropriate physical discipline. Kristie Haas is now formally charged with causing Emma’s death after engaging in this abuse and neglect.”
According to AG Jennings, “This case was ultimately made because one of the most dogged investigations our state has ever seen in my memory took place.”
Joined by members of Smyrna police, the FBI and AG’s office at the news conference, AG Jennings said that in all her years as a prosecutor and attorney “this has been one of the most heartbreaking investigations I have experienced and I am sure that is true for all of law enforcement who is with me here today.
“It was salt in the wound, that this happened in such a tight-knit community that is Smyrna, Delaware,” she said.
Lt. Donner added that the department took “an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
“We determined we would not stop pouring every available resource we had in solving this case and bringing the perpetrators to justice,” he said.
Smyrna Police Detective William Davis, the lead investigator in the case, was deserving of a “thank you and kudos for all his hard work and tenacity throughout this investigation,” Lt. Donner said.
Said Rachel Byrd, acting special agent in charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, “There are few crimes as heinous as the murder of a child.
“Emma Grace was just 3 years old when she was taken from this world. Through the course of this joint investigation we believe her short few years were filled with abuse and torture.
“Emma Grace had a full life to live and that life was taken. At just 3 years old, she was taken from her friends, her loved ones, her brothers and sisters.”
Mr. Haas, who had previously been in pre-trial community supervision, was taken into custody early Sunday for a breach of release and held at Sussex Correctional Institution. A $50,000 cash bail was set for Mr. Haas at a capias return hearing on Tuesday. An arraignment is scheduled for May 27.
Ms. Haas remained in custody at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution. While a $100,000 cash bail was listed on a docket Monday, AG Jennings said that could be adjusted based on the new charges. If convicted, Ms. Haas could face life in prison, the DOJ said.
Mr. Haas could receive up to a 45-year sentence if convicted.
Mr. and Ms. Haas were originally charged with first-degree child abuse, hindering prosecution and endangering the welfare of a child (six counts each), the DOJ announced following the indictment in April.
Ms. Haas was additionally charged with abuse of a corpse, reckless burning and second-degree assault. Prosecution of a tampering-with-evidence charge was discontinued.
On April 29, Ms. Haas entered a not-guilty plea on the earlier charges.
According to the court, Ms. Haas can be placed on pretrial Level 4/GPS or home confinement if bail is posted. Additionally, she was ordered to have no contact with Mr. Haas or her three children and not to leave the state, among other conditions.