Uncle Charged in Little Girl's Christmas Death-Walk | NBC New York

Uncle Charged in Little Girl's Christmas Death-Walk

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    Kenneth Quintana was arrested on a second-degree murder and drug possession charges.

    BOISE, Idaho  — A man accused of allowing his 11-year-old niece and 12-year-old nephew to attempt a 10-mile walk to their mother's house on a frigid Christmas Day was arrested on a murder warrant Thursday in connection with the hypothermia death of the little girl.

    The little boy survived.

    The warrant accuses Kenneth Quintana, 29, of second-degree murder and felony injury to a child, said Jerome County sheriff's Deputy David Ursino.

    The children's father, Robert Aragon, 55, was arrested earlier this week and faces the same charges.

    Aragon and Quintana had been driving the children to visit their mother when their 1988 Buick Century got stuck in a snowdrift on a desolate road. They are accused of allowing the children to attempt the trek on foot along a windswept, snowy highway while they stayed to free the car. They eventually returned to Aragon's hometown of Jerome.

    Sage Aragon, 11, walked about four miles with her older brother Bear in subfreezing temperatures, but then turned back.

    JoLeta Jenks, the children's mother, told The Associated Press earlier this week that she called Robert Aragon after the kids failed to arrive. She called 911 after learning the children were on foot, she said.

    A search dog found Sage's body, obscured by drifting snow, early Dec. 26 more than 2½ miles from where she and her brother had set out. She was wearing a down jacket, black shirt, pink pajama pants and tan snowboots. She was pronounced dead at a hospital in Ketchum. A preliminary autopsy report indicated she died of hypothermia.

    A search and rescue team found Bear at a rest stop shortly before 10 p.m. on Christmas night. He was treated at a nearby hospital and released.

    The children lived with Robert Aragon, who wasn't married to Jenks. She couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. Her phone number was not in service.

    Quintana was also arrested for investigation of two counts of drug possession — officers said they found him with marijuana and methamphetamine.

    Efforts to reach Quintana's family in Jerome were unsuccessful.

    Quintana was expected to be charged Friday in 5th District Court. Like Aragon, he's being held on a $500,000 bond.

    Residents of Jerome, an agricultural town in Idaho's dairy heartland, packed a Mormon church Wednesday for Sage Aragon's funeral. At the service, Darrell Tendoy, a great-uncle to the children, asked for forgiveness for Robert Aragon.

    "He raised those children. I was proud of him," said Tendoy. "Sometimes in our lives, we do make mistakes. He must be feeling a lot of pain right now."