Stepfather of murdered Delaware 3-year-old pleads guilty to child endangerment
May 26, 2023, 11:32 AM | Updated: 12:24 pm
DOVER, Del. (AP) — The stepfather of a 3-year-old girl whose burned remains were found on a softball field several years ago has pleaded guilty to child endangerment charges, according to a plea agreement unsealed Friday by a Delaware judge.
Brandon Haas, 41, pleaded guilty in March to one felony count and three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. None of the offenses carries mandatory prison time, although the felony count carries a maximum sentence of five years behind bars. Probation is the presumptive sentence for each of the four counts.
The plea agreement was unsealed one day after Haas’ wife, Kristie Haas, pleaded guilty to murder by abuse or neglect in the 2019 death of her daughter Emma Grace Cole. Kristie Haas also pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Kristie Haas, 31, is scheduled to be sentenced July 10, the date her trial was to begin. Sentencing for Brandon Haas, who has been cooperating with prosecutors, is expected to be held sometime in the fall.
The plea agreement was sealed following a partial gag order imposed in June 2021 restricting what attorneys can say about the case, which has drawn widespread media attention.
The child’s body was found in September 2019 by a person walking a dog through Smyrna-Clayton Little Lass Fields, a softball park near Smyrna Middle School in central Delaware. At the time, Emma lived with her parents and three siblings less than a mile from the ball field. Authorities believe Emma had been dead for several weeks before her body was found.
Haas and her husband were arrested in Pennsylvania in October 2020, more than a year after the child’s body was found. Both were originally indicted on felony charges of child abuse, child endangerment and hindering prosecution involving Emma’s death, as well as misdemeanor child endangerment charges involving her siblings.
Kristie Haas also was charged with felony assault, abusing a corpse and reckless burning. The charges against her were later upgraded to include two counts of murder.
Authorities alleged the couple withheld food and medical care from Emma and subjected her to “torture or maltreatment,” while also subjecting her and her siblings to excessive forced exercise and inappropriate physical discipline.
As part of his plea deal, Brandon Haas agreed to have no contact with the couple’s other three children for eight years. He was also ordered to undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations.
A trial for Brandon Haas had been scheduled to start July 10. He faced more than 40 years in prison had he been convicted on all charges.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to recommend a sentence of 50 years in prison for Kristie Haas. The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and Superior Court Judge Noel Primos is not bound by the sentencing recommendation.