A 19-year-old mother arrested this week in connection with the death of her 2-year-old son received sole custody of the child just six days before the boy’s death, according to Merced County Superior Court documents.
The body of 2-year-old Levi Klaas was found Tuesday pinned under a fallen dresser at his home in the 1100 block of Vine Street, the Atwater Police Department reported.
The child’s name was confirmed by family members and multiple court documents.
His mother, Amanda Klaas, was arrested on suspicion of felony child cruelty. Klaas posted a $50,000 bail bond and was released from the Merced County Jail late Tuesday. Klaas is scheduled to appear April 3 for arraignment in Merced County Superior Court, records show.
Police said Klaas put the child in the bedroom about 4 p.m. Monday and did not check on him again until some time after 10 a.m. Tuesday. Investigators believe the child may have been climbing on the dresser when it fell on him.
Police said Klaas may have been under the influence of drugs, though she has not been arrested on any narcotics charges.
The investigation remains open and detectives said they have not ruled out the possibility of seeking additional charges.
According to court documents obtained by the Merced Sun-Star, county Court Commissioner Shelly Seymour awarded Klaas full custody of the child Feb. 26 and allowed Klaas to change the child’s last name.
Klaas obtained at least two restraining orders against the father dating back to 2012, according to court documents.
Efforts to reach Klaas and the child’s father by telephone were unsuccessful Wednesday.
An autopsy was conducted Wednesday to determine the cause and approximate time of the child’s death, but those results are expected to take about two weeks to complete, Lt. Samuel Joseph said.
Relatives and neighbors have defended Klaas, who goes by her nickname “Aiimey.” Supporters have called her a “great mother” and said she is a grieving parent who lost her child in a tragic accident.
“She cherished Levi, she absolutely adored him and she is absolutely devastated now,” said Celeste Simonsen, Klaas’ aunt.
“I wish people would stop being so judgmental, so awful to her because this was a horrible, horrible accident that could happen to anyone,” Simonsen said.
Klaas’ relatives and neighbors have disputed police claims that she was under the influence of drugs and that she left the child unattended for a nearly a full day, saying those accusations are not true.
Simonsen described Levi as bright, fun-loving boy who was full of energy and loved to play with Simonsen’s cats. She said her niece was a hard-working single mother who was taking care of her child while putting herself through classes at Merced Community College.
“I just hope they (law enforcement) drop this,” Simonsen said. “She’s already suffering the worst punishment anyone can ever have. She’s totally devastated. We all are.”
Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.