Little Lass field to be dedicated to girl whose remains were found

SMYRNA — As cases continue against two former Smyrna residents arrested after a child’s remains were found at the Smyrna Clayton Little Lass Softball complex last year, there are plans to honor the girl’s memory later this month.

According to Little Lass Softball’s Facebook page, Emma Grace Memorial Field will be dedicated during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Nov. 21 at the complex at 887 Duck Creek Parkway.

Softball complex leaders in mid-October placed a memorial wreath for Emma at the site and posted on Facebook that a more permanent memorial would be coming.

In the days after the wreath was placed, the tribute grew with flowers, stuffed animals and two candles encased in glass with the image of St. Jude. In the center of it all was a message that read “In Memory of Emma Cole.”

According to court records and police reports, husband and wife Brandon L. and Kristie L. Haas were each charged in October with endangering the welfare of a child and tampering with physical evidence, after the remains of Ms. Haas’ daughter, Emma Grace Cole, were discovered at the softball fields Sept. 13, 2019, by a man walking his dog. Smyrna police said the child was 3 years old when she died.

Kristie L. Haas

The couple was extradited to Delaware following their arrests in Pennsylvania last month.

Indiana court records show that Ms. Cole is the mother of Emma and three other children, whose paternity and guardianship was established in that state’s court system. Mr. Haas is not their biological father.

Those records also show that after paternity for Emma was established in 2016, a guardian was appointed for a period of time from September 2016 to September 2017.

Brandon L. Haas

In August 2017, Kristie L. Cole filed a notice to relocate that was unopposed.
Social media posts indicated that Kristie L. Cole married Mr. Haas in May 2017.

While authorities have not disclosed many details about the case or the existence of Emma’s siblings, court records show their maternal grandmother has sought custody in the wake of Ms. Haas’ arrest.

On Oct. 14 in the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas, Belinda Johnson-Hurtado filed a petition for emergency custody against defendants Kristie Haas and Christopher Epeards. The matter was scheduled to go before a judge Oct. 24, but no further information is available in the court record.

According to the Delaware Department of Justice, Ms. Haas, 28, waived a preliminary hearing Friday in the Court of Common Pleas. She remained in custody at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle early Tuesday afternoon, according to VINELink. Her bail was set at $100,000 cash, according to court records.

The Delaware Office of the Public Defender said that Kent County head attorney Anthony Capone is representing Ms. Haas and declined further comment.

Mr. Haas, 38, has a preliminary hearing scheduled Friday in the Court of Common Pleas, the DOJ said. The calendar for all cases that day is slated to begin at 8:30 a.m. Mr. Haas posted an $8,000 cash bond Oct. 9, according to court records, and is being represented by attorney John Deckers, the DOJ said. An attempt to reach Mr. Deckers for comment Monday was not successful.

A group of prosecutors from the Felony Trial and Special Victims’ units have been working with law enforcement on the case, the DOJ said. Both the DOJ and Smyrna police declined further comment on the case this week.

Last month, judges accepted DOJ and police requests that certain records be kept under seal and not publicly available; therefore, little details are known about the case or what led to the arrests. No pleas had been entered by the defendants as of Tuesday, the DOJ said.

Fueled by social media, the case quickly drew widespread attention after the couple’s arrest in October.

A private “Justice For Emma Grace” Facebook page, which started shortly after the arrests were announced, has approximately 1,700 members. After the page’s launch, members identified themselves as being from at least 20 states, along with residents of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Scotland, Germany and Finland, as well as many area towns.

In November 2019, authorities publicly released facial reconstruction images to assist Smyrna Police Department’s investigation. Forensic artists with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children created images that were released, and the organization also examined a CT scan of the child’s skull.

At that time, police said information from the public had waned after an initial flurry of tips both locally and regionally in the early investigation.

Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunt had also issued a report after examining the remains, while working in concert with the Delaware Division of Forensic Science. That report pointed to the remains being of a Caucasian or Hispanic female, likely between 2 and 5 years old, police said at the time, and an anthropological exam indicated that the child may have suffered from chronic illness or illnesses.