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South Dakota woman gets 22 years in toddler death

LAKE ANDES, S.D. (AP) – A woman accused of binging on drugs for nearly two days while a toddler lay dead in a closet in her South Dakota home was sentenced Thursday to 22 years in prison.

Laurie Cournoyer, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of methamphetamine, five years for keeping a place for meth and 10 years, including eight suspended, for having drugs in jail. Cournoyer was also sentenced to five years for failing to report the death of a child.

Prosecutors said Cournoyer and her husband, Taylor, used sleeping pills, methamphetamine and marijuana for a day and a half in July last year while they were supposed to be caring for several children, including the one who died. The Cournoyers were not the parents of the girl whose death they failed to report. Authorities found out about the death after another child in the couple’s care invited two young neighbors to look at the dead toddler’s body at the Cournoyers’ home in Warner, about 100 miles southwest of Sioux Falls.

The couple were the first people charged under a state law enacted last year that says a parent, guardian or caretaker who knowingly fails to report a child’s death within six hours could face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison.

“It hurts my heart to know that I failed them, not only as a mother, but as a protector,” Cournoyer told the judge. “I have had time to see the mistakes I have made, and what it comes down to is the fact that I chose to put that needle in my vein. Now, for the rest of my life, I have to live with that choice.”

Taylor Cournoyer pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and keeping a place for use or sale of drugs as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in November.

An 11-year-old boy also has been charged in the case. Details of his alleged involvement have not been released because he is a juvenile.

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