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January 27, 2015

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Godmother accused of killing baby with pipe expected to plead not guilty

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Mariann Harris

A woman accused of slaying her goddaughter with a green metal pipe told police earlier this month she didn’t do it.

And the woman, Mariann Harris, 23, is expected to make that claim again when she is arraigned Thursday in Clark County District Court.

“She will plead not guilty,” Deputy Public Defender Scott Coffee said today.

Coffee, who was appointed as Harris’ attorney in Las Vegas District Court, said he expected to continue to represent Harris, now that she has been indicted and the matter has moved up to district court. Harris had been scheduled to have a preliminary hearing in the lower court this morning.

Coffee said he was still going through the discovery process of getting information police have about the case and was unable to comment any more about the case.

A grand jury indictment was handed down on Friday charging Harris with one count of murder, one count of child abuse and neglect with a deadly weapon and two more counts of child abuse and neglect in connection with the death of of 14-month-old Dyon Johnson, Coffee said. The last two counts of child abuse were for two other children in her care.

Harris will be arraigned at 9 a.m. Thursday before Judge Abbi Silver in district court.

A spokeswoman for the Clark County Coroner’s office has said the baby’s death was ruled a homicide caused by blunt head trauma and child abuse.

Harris was arrested Aug. 24 in California in connection with Dyon’s death and was extradited Aug. 27 to Las Vegas, where she is being held without bail in the Clark County Detention Center.

According to police, the girl’s mother, Jannett Simms said she dropped off Dyon, who she said was healthy, at Harris’ house to stay for a few days.

The arrest report says that just before midnight Aug. 12, the 1-year-old girl was taken to University Medical Center with fresh injuries.

A fire captain who arrived at the scene said Dyon was "cold to the touch" and an EMT noticed extensive bruising to the baby’s face, although Harris claimed she found the child lying on the floor having trouble breathing. She changed her previous story that Dyon had fallen down the stairs, police said.

Two of Harris’ young children later said in an interview that their mother beat Dyon in the kitchen. When officers issued a search warrant they found a green metal pipe from a bar stool in the kitchen with a hair tie similar to ones in Dyon’s hair.

Harris accused officers of bringing in the pipe, but the first officer to arrive said the pipe already was in the home.

A neighbor also told police she saw Harris hitting Dyon very hard on the back the day before the child died.

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