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Monday, March 14, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Stepmother charged with manslaughter in death of 4-year-old Sirita Sotelo

EVERETT — A manslaughter charge was filed today against the 25-year-old stepmother of 4-year-old Sirita Sotelo, who was beaten to death in January at the family home in Lake Stevens.

Heather Ewell was not immediately arrested.

Ewell struck the child multiple times while she was taking care of her, causing a skull fracture and severed liver, according to papers filed by prosecutors in Snohomish County Superior Court.

The blows were so severe that any one of them would have been fatal, investigators said in court papers. Sirita's death was ruled a homicide by abuse.

Ewell will be arraigned next week, KOMO-TV reported.

After the child's death Jan. 21, her foster parents testified before the Legislature in favor of legal changes to protect other foster children by changing state law to limit the rights of biological parents.

The bill known as "Sirita's Law" passed the House 94-0 last Thursday and is pending in the Senate.

Sirita was born with cocaine in her system and state officials have said she was checked a number of times as a potential abuse or neglect victim before being returned to her family.

State Child Protective Services investigators were reviewing the agency's handling of the case.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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