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Lange missing 9 days during which baby died

Justice Lange addresses the court July 12 at an initial appearance in Stutsman County. John M. Steiner / The Sun

A Carrington woman admitted to law enforcement officers she took intravenous methamphetamine the day she traveled into rural Stutsman County where her 4-month-old son died, according to court documents.

Justice Lange, 25, is being held in the Stutsman County Correctional Center on $250,000 cash bond. She is charged with manslaughter, a Class B felony, and child neglect, a Class C felony.

The criminal complaint said her child, Tyr Lange, 4 months old, died on or about July 4. The baby’s body was discovered by law enforcement on July 7 during a search that began the previous day.

The transcript of the testimony during the probable cause hearing July 11 at the Stutsman County Courthouse before Judge Jay Schmitz, indicates Lange provided information to law enforcement officers, although her story changed as she was questioned a second time.

Events played out over nine days and began at the carnival at the Stutsman County Fair.

Deputy Jason Falk, detective with the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department, testified in the probable cause hearing that Jason Wilde, age 37 or 38, Carrington, the boyfriend of Justice Lange and father of Tyr, purchased methamphetamine on June 28 from a person at the carnival at the Stutsman County Fair. Falk also testified Lange told him that she had “shot up right before she left with the baby.”

Also on June 28, a report of a missing person and child endangerment was received by the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department.

“The father (Wilde) of this child called and reported that his girlfriend, the mother of the child, had taken off in a vehicle that she didn’t own,” Falk testified at the probable cause hearing. “He reported that she’s a meth addict and that she took off with the kid and felt that she was off using drugs and in hiding.”

Wilde also told authorities she was driving a pickup he was in the process of purchasing.

The Sheriff’s Department issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) to law enforcement agencies in North Dakota requesting a welfare check on Lange. The department also noted there were numerous warrants for Lange’s arrest and the vehicle she was assumed to be driving was listed as stolen by the Carrington Police Department.

Wilde told the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department he had been fighting with Lange and suspected she might be hiding from him in the Woodworth area.

Later investigations found a farmer in the area southeast of Woodworth reported a strange pickup driving through his yard and onto field trails on June 28. The farmer attempted to follow the pickup but was unable to locate the vehicle.

While Lange was missing, Wilde attempted to locate her and Tyr.

On July 2, a man later identified as Wilde was reported following a vehicle containing two females in an area north of Woodworth near the Foster County border.

Officers responding to the call were informed that Wilde had called the Stutsman County Communications Center expressing concern about the safety of his child and its mother. Dispatchers also alerted officers that he was driving on a suspended license.

A vehicle pursuit with speeds of up to 80 mph was followed by a foot pursuit in a pasture before Wilde was apprehended and transported to the Stutsman County Correctional Center on arrest warrants from Cass, Stutsman and Foster counties as well as charges of driving under suspension, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer and reckless endangerment of the passenger in the vehicle.

Wilde is free on a $1,000 unsecured bond. His next court appearance is at 11 a.m. Sept. 5.

On July 6, an individual traveling in the area reported finding a woman walking barefoot wearing only a tank top and bra along a gravel road southeast of Woodworth. The individual knew the woman, who was later identified as Lange, and transported her to her grandparents’ residence  in Carrington. Falk said in his testimony that Lange was described to him as sunburned and covered with ticks. When questioned about the baby, she told her family she had left the boy in the water.

The family alerted law enforcement officers. On July 6, investigators found the pickup Lange had been driving stuck on a trail between a pasture and a corn field.

“It had gas,” Falk testified. “There was baby formula, there was water, food, some food, things like that, baby items, in the vehicle.”

Investigators found a trail of items including a car seat, baby bib and changed diaper leading west from where the vehicle was stuck. Along the trail, searchers located Lange’s shoes, underwear and pants.

“And then we found a spot near a body of water where it looked like somebody had spent a lot of time,” Falk testified. “Everything was trampled down and things like that.”

Falk described the land surrounding the slough as hilly. He said from the top of the hills, two or three farms were visible on the horizon.

Lange told Falk during questioning that somewhere around day three or four, possibly July 1 or July 2, “the baby was not waking up.”

“She went into the water and was splashing water on the baby to revive him,” Falk testified, regarding his interrogation of Lange. “When she walked back up she didn’t have the baby anymore.”

Lange told a different story when she was later questioned about the same thing.

“She said the baby died in her arms,” Falk testified. “She said she had gone down to the water, splashed water on the baby to try to revive him, but she couldn’t revive (Tyr) and he died in her arms, and that she then went up to shore and she placed the baby in the reeds next to the body of water.”

Falk testified that the information Lange gave during the second interview “guided us right to where the body was found.”

The search of the area had begun on the afternoon of July 6 with no success. The more detailed information Lange gave during the second interrogation narrowed the search and the baby’s body was found on the afternoon of July 7.

Lange was initially arrested and transported to the Stutsman County Correctional Center on previous warrants. She was transported to Carrington on July 9 and found guilty of contempt of court for failure to pay fees and restitution in a 2012 forgery case. She was sentenced to five days in the Stutsman County Correctional Center during which the investigation continued and charges of manslaughter and child neglect were filed.

Chad Kaiser, Stutsman County sheriff, said the cause of death for the baby is officially listed as pending by the medical examiner.

During the probable cause hearing, Falk listed the preliminary cause of the baby’s death as malnutrition.

Lange remains in custody in the Stutsman County Correctional Center on $250,000 cash bond. She has been assigned Kevin McCabe, a public defender from Dickinson, as court-appointed counsel. Her next court appearance, a preliminary hearing and/or arraignment, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 5, at the Stutsman County Courthouse before Schmitz.