Fayant pleads guilty to manslaughter

Brookings County Sheriff's Office photo

Brookings woman admits to causing 2-year-old niece’s malnourishment death in 2019

BROOKINGS – A Brookings woman charged in the July 2019 malnourishment death of a 2-year-old girl has pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.

Renae Fayant, 27, faces up to 75 years in prison when she returns to court for sentencing, a date for which has not yet been set.

In exchange for her plea, remaining charges of second-degree murder and abuse or cruelty to a minor under age 7 will be dismissed, and no other charges will be brought in the case. 

The State is recommending a sentence of 75 years in prison with no time suspended. The defense is allowed to present evidence at sentencing and argue for less time.

First-degree manslaughter is a Class C felony with a maximum sentence of up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine, but the court has agreed to be bound by the 75-year cap.

Fayant and Robert Price, Jr., 29, were indicted by a Brookings County grand jury in 2019 in the death of Fayant’s niece, Esperanza Maria Fayant.

Price’s case is still pending.

Brookings Police received a 911 call from Renae Fayant that her niece was unresponsive and not breathing July 31, 2019. The call came in at 3:55 p.m., from a home in the 900 block of Seventh Street, according to a report from Brookings Police. The girl was pronounced dead at the scene.

Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said at a 2019 press conference that the girl was living in disturbing conditions, confined to a small area of the home and being deprived of food and water for an extended period of time. Human and animal feces were found throughout the home, he added. Dirty diapers were in the dining room, and rotting food was in the kitchen.

In court Tuesday, Fayant admitted to causing the death of her niece while engaging in the commission of a felony, with child abuse listed as the underlying felony.

Fayant admitted that she had custody of and was the primary caregiver for the toddler, and she did not deny that the toddler died from “malnourishment and failure to thrive” because of abuse.

Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg accepted Fayant’s guilty plea and ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

Nelson said he was pleased to see the case move toward its conclusion.

“We’ve worked hard to resolve Ms. Fayant’s case, and I’m pleased that we can move toward sentencing and ultimately conclude her matter. I appreciate the patience shown by the public and respecting the process,” Nelson said.

Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]