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Child murder suspect accepts plea agreement in Pahrump

The defense attorneys of a Pahrump man who was initially arrested on a child murder charge last summer, have negotiated a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Nye County Deputy District Attorney Michael Vieta-Kabell said the DA’s office extended an offer to Cole Engelson, 39, who ultimately accepted the agreement.

Engelson lived with the child’s biological mother, according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

“We reached a negotiation but I wouldn’t quite call it an 11th-hour negotiation,” he said. “It wasn’t the eve of the trial but it was the eve of the preliminary hearing. We had an offer extended for a few weeks. It’s a very serious allegation, so the defendant ultimately decided to accept the negotiation. He still has some steps to go through at the district court level, but he will be entering a plea of guilty to second-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon.”

Hearing canceled

Engelson and his defense attorneys were scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 11.

Vieta-Kabell noted that prosecutors had at least eight witnesses lined up to testify for the hearing, some of which were summoned from out of state.

“We had one doctor who was working at Desert View Hospital at the time, and he was a material witness in this case, who we did produce from Georgia,” he said. “With allegations such as this, it kind of goes without saying that we would have produced him from the ends of the earth to be here if need be.

“On one hand you might have people saying you brought somebody all the way from Georgia and then you just plead the case out?” Vieta-Kabell said. “But it was a very important case with very serious allegations. We try to use the county’s money responsibly when we are prosecuting cases. In a case like this, obviously, a lot of the expense factors are outweighed by the severity of the allegations.”

Seeking closure

Additionally, Vieta-Kabell said he believes the outcome of the agreement will be a just outcome for both Engelson and the victim’s family.

“Securing a conviction in this kind of case by a pre-negotiation prevents a lot of routes and avenues of review and a lot of uncertainty for the family members of the victim who rightfully want and deserve some finality,” he said. “It’s really tough with these negotiations sometimes, but fortunately, again, we were able to achieve one in this case. Mr. Engelson will be exposed to some serious time.”

Next step

As a result of the agreement, Vieta-Kabell said Engelson will appear in district court to enter his plea.

“He still has a few more steps to go and he could certainly change his mind and request a jury trial, but as it stands right now, it looks like he will be entering a plea,” Vieta-Kabell said. “He will actually be pleading no contest to those charges. Once he has entered his plea, then it will be referred to the Department of Parole and Probation to prepare a report for the judge, detailing facts and circumstances of the crime along with his criminal history, if any as well as social history.”

Judge’s decision

During Engelson’s hearing, Vieta-Kabell said the judge will mull over at least two sentencing options.

“It’s punishable by a minimum of 10 years to life or a minimum of 10 years to 25 years,” he said. “The judge can decide between those two options under the statute. Because it’s a crime that carries a deadly weapon enhancement, the judge will also sentence the defendant to a mandatory consecutive term somewhere between two and 20 years.”

The district court arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m., Jan. 28, before Judge Robert Lane, Vieta-Kabell said.

Details of the killing

It was just after 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, 2017 when Nye County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received a 911 call regarding a child who had stopped breathing at a residence on the 5000 block of East Manse Road in Pahrump.

“Emergency personnel from Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue Service were dispatched and upon arrival found a woman performing CPR on her 3-year-old child,” a sheriff’s office statement said.

In addition to being unresponsive and not breathing, the child suffered from multiple bruises and other injuries, according to the statement.

“Emergency personnel provided life-saving measures while transporting the child to Desert View Hospital where emergency department staff tried desperately to save the child’s life,” the statement noted. “The child was subsequently pronounced deceased as a result of the severe injuries.”

Deputies and detectives responded to the residence and began a detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s grave condition, the statement said.

Engelson later was taken into custody and booked into the Nye County Detention Center with no bail.

Detectives executed a search warrant at the residence, where they searched well into the early morning hours for evidence of exactly what occurred to the child, the sheriff’s office said.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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