Update: Smyrna couple faces two charges each in child’s death

This story contains new information.

SMYRNA — A week after seeking a woman and her husband for questioning in connection with her daughter’s death, the couple was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and tampering with physical evidence.

The 3-year-old child’s remains were found just over a year ago in a Smyrna park. What happened to her is still a mystery.

Court records show that former Smyrna residents Kristie L. and Brandon L. Haas were found in Pennsylvania early this month and then extradited to Delaware.

Mr. Haas, 38, was released on $8,000 cash bail Oct. 9.

Ms. Haas, 28, remained in prison Friday, with bail set at $100,000 cash.

Kristie L. Haas

The charges are part of limited information available to the public through court and inmate records in the case that began Sept. 13, 2019, when the remains were found by a man walking his dog. Police identified the child as Emma Cole last week.

The case drew widespread attention at the time of the discovery, and the interest continued on social media as details of the arrests were announced by police last week.

Social media posts indicate that Kristie L. Cole married Mr. Haas in May 2017. Indiana court records show that Ms. Cole is the mother of Emma and three other children, whose paternity was established in that state’s court system. Mr. Haas is not their biological father.

The warrant for Ms. Haas was sealed Thursday at the request of a Smyrna Police Department detective, documents showed.

A warrant involving Mr. Haas was sealed at the request of Smyrna police Sept. 29, according to documents. A letter from the Delaware Department of Justice on Oct. 9 requesting that certain records be maintained under seal was approved by a judge Tuesday.

Ms. Haas arrived in custody at Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle at 9:10 p.m. Thursday. She had not posted bail as of Friday, but court records show that if paid, she must not leave the state, have no contact with her children or any other children under the age of 18 and that a pretrial Level 4/GPS or home confinement is required.

Smyrna police and DOJ officials declined comment on the case Friday as the investigation continued.

Smyrna police arrested Ms. Haas, who was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 7 in Dover on Thursday. A preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 8 in Kent County Court of Common Pleas, according to records.

Mr. Haas was extradited from Pennsylvania and presented before Justice of the Peace Court on Oct. 8, according to court documents. He posted $8,000 in secured bail, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Jan. 22 in the Court of Common Pleas.

The Little Lass organization began a temporary memorial at its complex Monday, noting that plans for a more permanent tribute were ongoing.

Brandon L. Haas

A private “Justice For Emma Grace” Facebook page started over the weekend had approximately 1,300 members Friday afternoon. 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.

According to Delaware Code, a class E felony conviction results when the death of a child occurs while his or her welfare was endangered.

Tampering with physical evidence is a class G felony when a person is found guilty of:

  1. Intending that it be used or introduced in an official proceeding or a prospective official proceeding the person:

a. Knowingly makes, devises, alters or prepares false physical evidence; or

b. Produces or offers false physical evidence at a proceeding, knowing it to be false; or

  1. Believing that certain physical evidence is about to be produced or used in an official proceeding or a prospective official proceeding, and intending to prevent its production or use, the person suppresses it by any act of concealment, alteration or destruction, or by employing force, intimidation or deception against any person.

A nonviolent felony class G conviction of tampering with physical evidence has a statutory range of zero to two years incarceration with a presumptive sentence of up to 12 months of Level II probation. Zero to five years incarceration is the statutory range for a felony class E endangering the welfare of a child conviction, with a presumptive sentence of up to 12 months of Level II probation.

A judge has discretion on sentencing based on consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors.

In 2012, then-Kristie Cole resolved a theft case in Indiana through a plea agreement, according to documents.

Three cases were filed in 2013, which included a guilty plea to theft, admission to a seat belt violation and a speeding default judgment.

In 2016, Ms. Cole entered a plea agreement to a forgery offense.

According to court documents, Mr. Haas was found guilty of drug possession in Delaware in 2013 and 2017, shoplifting in 2012 and 2016, along with resisting arrest and receiving stolen property greater than $1,500 in 2012. He was found guilty of speeding in 2003 and expired tags in 2015 in Delaware.

Speaking generally, DOJ spokesman Mat Marshall said the bail process typically begins with an arrest, followed by a defendant being arraigned in Justice of the Peace Court.

“In an arraignment, a bail magistrate (or a Court of Common Pleas judge, depending on jurisdiction) explains the charges against the accused and, if the accused pleads not guilty, sets bail,” Mr. Marshall said.

“Almost always, police make the bail requests.”