Johnson County woman pleads guilty in the death of her infant son in Shawnee fire

·2 min read
Tammy Ljungblad/

A Johnson County woman pleaded guilty Thursday to charges relating to the death of her infant son in a Shawnee house fire earlier this year, according to court records.

Karlie Mae Phelps, 28, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child relating to the Feb. 13 fatal house fire in the 10500 block of West 69th Terrace.

As part of a plea agreement, charges of intimidation of a witness, violation of a protection order and felony possession of oxycodone in two separate cases are to be dismissed at sentencing, according to court documents.

Phelps’ attorney, Scott Toth, declined to comment Friday.

During a preliminary hearing earlier this week, a Johnson County judge ordered the child’s father, 29-year-old Nicholas Adam Ecker of Prairie Village, to stand trial on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Phelps is accused of setting the fire to his ex-girlfriend’s home that killed their baby.

According to court records, Ecker was not allowed at Phelps’ home following two incidents of alleged domestic violence against her earlier this year and was prohibited from contacting her.

The most recent incident was 10 days before the deadly fire when Ecker confronted Phelps and a man inside her home and allegedly threatened both of them, leading investigators to conclude that Ecker showed “high lethality,” according to court records.

The fire was reported about 12:50 a.m. Feb. 13. Several people inside the home were able to escape, but Ecker and Phelps’ child was killed.

Ecker showed up at the scene of the fire just 20 minutes after firefighters were dispatched, even though authorities had not notified him. He told investigators that he had “bad feeling” and rushed over, according to court documents.

Phelps, who was not home at the time of the fire, told investigators she had left the baby at home while she went to buy prescription medication. While there, she received phone calls that her house was on fire. She even spoke with Ecker, telling her the child was in the house.

Cellphone records revealed that Ecker apparently went to Phelps’ home looking for her and their child and he confronted her about her whereabouts in a series of messages in the hours before the fire, according to court records. He threatened to harm himself and 20 minutes before the fire sent a photo of a Valentine’s Day balloon apparently taken from her home.

In a message just before 1 a.m., Ecker messaged Phelps that something was “terribly wrong.”

“Go get junior NOW,” Phelps messaged Ecker back at 1:07 a.m. “HES INSIDE YOU DIMB (sic) ASS I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU STARTED THAT FIRE. YOU KILLED OUR BABY!!! And you could’ve killed me!!!”

Sentencing for Phelps has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 6.