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Woman convicted of child abuse after 1-year-old dies in cold

Kaylee Messerly of Craig was convicted Wednesday of one count of child abuse resulting in death, and one count of child abuse resulting in serious injury.
Credit: Moffat County Sheriff's Office

MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. — A woman has been convicted of two counts of child abuse after her 18-month-old daughter died and her 3-year-old daughter sustained cold exposure-related injuries in Moffat County last year.

Kaylee Messerly, 36, of Craig was convicted Wednesday of one count of child abuse resulting in death, and one count of child abuse resulting in serious injury. 

The Moffat County Sheriff's Office said on March 11, 2021, they were notified about a suspicious vehicle near County Road 54 in unincorporated Moffat County, which is not frequently traveled in the winter months. The initial caller also said he spotted an empty stroller not far from the vehicle, an arrest affidavit said.

Rescue crews found Messerly about a mile from the vehicle with her 3-year-old daughter. They were both alive and suffering from environmental exposure injuries, according to MCSO.

MCSO said Messerly's 1-year-old daughter was found dead nearby. According to the affidavit, the child was wearing a coat but did not have socks, shoes or any type of head covering. According to the autopsy report, the child's death was ruled an accident and the cause of death was determined to be hypothermia.

Both Messerly and her daughter tested positive for meth, according to the affidavit. Messerly told investigators that she had tested positive because of eating snow around an oil rig tank that had methane gas written on the side of it. She said one of her children also ate the snow, the affidavit says.

Messerly's surviving daughter had one of the worst, "if not the worst," cases of frostbite ever seen at Children's Hospital, according to the affidavit. The child had both of her feet amputated on March 18.

RELATED: Mother, daughter stranded on snowy road found alive, 2nd daughter found dead

RELATED: Mom whose daughter died due to cold exposure admits to meth use

Following her arrest, Messerly told investigators she had used meth on either March 8 or 9. She then left her house about 1 p.m. March 9 "to get the children out of the house" and described it as a "nice warm day." She told investigators they went to County Road 54 to "find and pick up small rocks to write numbers on," but her car became stuck in the mud, according to the affidavit.

She said they waited in the car for four hours and when no one came, she decided to start walking with her children to what she thought was a house. It was actually a pump house, the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, the only pump house in the area is about 300 yards north of where Messerly's vehicle was stuck. Deputies noted, when checked, that it was "unlocked and heated from the equipment inside."

Messerly said once she started walking it "became dark" and started snowing, which caused her to become disoriented and lost, the affidavit says. The document notes that Messerly had been to County Road 54 before and told investigators she had been in the "middle of nowhere gazillions of times" with her children.

The second night she was stuck, Messerly said she said she sat down with her children on her chest and tried to cover them, the document says. She fell asleep and when she woke up, she discovered her youngest daughter was deceased, according to the affidavit.

Deputies who went to the area on March 11 found Messerly's unoccupied vehicle stuck in mud and snow, according to MCSO. Deputies contacted her sister, who said she had last heard from Messerly on March 9. Her sister said Messerly did not mention plans of leaving but also said it was not unusual for her to leave without her phone or "take off without telling anyone."

After speaking with deputies, her sister found Messerly's phone at her house.

Messerly faces up to 48 years in prison for the first count and up to 16 years for the second count when she is sentenced on Sept. 1.

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