The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 8, 2013

Father’s girlfriend draws life term for toddler’s death

By Jeff Lehr
news@joplinglobe.com

MIAMI, Okla. — Skye Reece was visibly shaken Friday by the pronouncement of her sentence of life in prison for the murder of 17-month-old Lanceton Hollenbeck even though the judge left open a chance for eventual parole.

The jury that convicted the young Quapaw woman of first-degree murder in December recommended a life term with the possibility of parole. A pre-sentence investigation recommended the same, and that’s what the Ottawa County district attorney was seeking.

Under Oklahoma law, just two sentences are possible for first-degree murder: life without parole and life with the possibility of parole.

But defense attorney Andrew Meloy asked District Judge Robert Haney at Reece’s sentencing hearing in Ottawa County District Court to consider granting his client probation for some portion of her life sentence.

“For the record, Ms. Reece is a girl who just turned 21,” Meloy said. “She has no prior criminal record.”

The judge conceded that the defendant’s relative youth and the fact that she has a 1-year-old son who will be affected by her imprisonment add to the tragedy of the case. But it has been most tragic for the child who lost his life, the judge said before announcing his decision to stick with the jury’s sentencing recommendation.

District Attorney Eddie Wyant expressed agreement with the judge’s decision following the hearing and said his office will oppose any request of the defendant for modification of the sentence.

“This was a tragedy, but the severity of the crime warrants this type of punishment,” Wyant said. “I don’t think she was deserving of probation.”

The Hollenbeck boy was the son of Reece’s former boyfriend, Ryan Nowlin, with whom she has a son in common named Clayton. Lanceton lived with his mother, Megan Hollenbeck, but would stay with his father on weekend visits.

Nowlin testified at the trial that Lanceton started crying when he had to leave for work at High Winds Casino the night of Feb. 11, 2012. He had picked Lanceton up and kissed him and set him down next to Reece and Clayton on his way out the door.

Reece called him shortly after he got to work and summoned him back home. He rushed back to find emergency medical technicians already at their house.

Reece told emergency personnel and police that she was feeding Clayton in the living room when she heard a thud in the children’s bedroom with no subsequent crying. She went to see what had happened and found Lanceton unconscious on the floor, she told police. She gave him some rescue breaths, and took him to the bathroom and wet his head with a cloth in an effort to revive him, she told police.

The first officer on the scene testified that she was holding the boy and supporting his head on her shoulder when he arrived. The child was unresponsive and gasping for air. His head and hair were damp, and he had a bump above and behind his ear.

The child was flown by medical helicopter to a hospital in Tulsa, where he died. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be cranial and cerebral injuries from blunt-force trauma. He had a large fracture on the left side of his skull with smaller branching fractures. A doctor and medical examiner testified at trial that the boy’s injuries could not have been caused by a fall from the small bed in his room onto a carpeted floor.

Reece reportedly told an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent that the child fell from the bed, and that was her story and she was sticking to it. She chose not to testify at trial.

Nowlin and Reece were engaged to be married at the time of the boy’s death. Nowlin testified at trial that they since had parted, and he now has custody of the boy they have in common.



Thuds

Skye Reece told police she heard a single thud and found Lanceton Hollenbeck unconscious on the floor of his bedroom. One of her neighbors testified that he felt “three real hard bumps” through the carpeted concrete floor of the four-plex where Reece and the boy’s father lived.