Benton City woman pleads innocent in daughter's drowning

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 25, 2013 

A Benton City mom faces a March 25 trial for allegedly leaving her toddler unsupervised in the bathtub, resulting in the girl's drowning while she worked on a computer in another room.

Wendi Finkbeiner-Setzer, 39, pleaded innocent Thursday in Benton County Superior Court to second-degree manslaughter.

More than a dozen family members and friends filled courtroom benches for Finkbeiner-Setzer's first court appearance.

She had been sent a summons to appear on the new charge. Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor said he didn't object to Finkbeiner-Setzer remaining free on her personal recognizance while the case is pending.

Lawyer Larry Stephenson asked that his client be allowed to travel throughout the state because her son participates in sporting events.

Bloor agreed with the request.

On Nov. 5, Piper K. Finkbeiner was found face down and not breathing in the bathtub of her Thunder Road home.

According to court documents, her daughters, ages 1 and 2, were left alone in the tub while Finkbeiner-Setzer went into another room.

The mom told Benton County Sheriff's deputies they were alone for no more than five minutes in about 10 to 12 inches of water, and questioned if the older girl might have turned on the water faucet.

Deputies noted that the water overflowed from the tub, soaking throw rugs in the bathroom and the carpet under the door between the bathroom and bedroom.

Finkbeiner-Setzer's 18-year-old son discovered the toddler had drowned when he checked on the girls after getting home, documents said.

Piper was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, then flown to Seattle Children's Hospital.

Doctors determined the girl was brain dead and she was taken off life support Nov. 12.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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