Newly released court documents suggest that a jealous rage between a mother and a father led to a house fired that killed an infant in Shawnee, Kansas.
According to the documents, the child's father, Nicholas Adam Ecker, torched the mother, Karlie Mae Phelps' house while he believed she and their infant son were away. However, what Ecker failed to realize was that Phelps had left the baby home alone. Ecker and Phelps were previously in a relationship.
Ecker told Authorities He Rushed Over Because Had a 'Bad Feeling'
Ecker, 28, arrived on the scene of the Feb. 13 blaze just 20 minutes after firefighters were dispatched â even though authorities had not yet contacted him about the incident. He told officials he had a "bad feeling" and rushed over to the house, but cell phone records show he had been in the home minutes before the fire was reported.
He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson in connection with the fatal fire. He remains jailed in lieu of a $1 million bond.
Phelps, also was arrested late last month and charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child in connection with the blaze. She posted $250,000 bond and remains under house arrest, court records show. Phelps was also charged with felony possession of oxycodone upon her arrest, court records show. A judge entered a protective order barring her from contacting any witnesses in connection with that case.
She was arrested again on Thursday for intimidating a witness and violating the protective order barring her from contacting witnesses in the ongoing case.
Ecker Threatened Phelps and a Man Inside Her House Days Before the Fire
Ecker was prohibited from entering Phelps' house as a result of two alleged domestic violence incidents against her and a court order that prohibited contact. The most recent incident was just 10 days before the fire, when Ecker confronted Phelps and a man inside her home and threatened them both.
'You Killed Our Baby!'
Phelps consented to a forensic download of her phone, according to the affidavit. The phone's contents showed a contentious series of text messages between Phelps and Ecker just prior to the fatal fire.
A review of the pair's cell phone records revealed Ecker apparently visited Phelps' home, looking for her and their child, and confronted her about her whereabouts in a series of messages in the hours before the fire, court records show. Ecker accused Phelps of lying about her whereabouts, threatened to kill himself and at 12:33 a.m. â just 20 minutes before firefighters responded to the home â sent a photo of a Valentine's Day balloon apparently taken from inside Phelps' home.
The messages continued and just before 1 a.m. Feb. 14, as firefighters had arrived at the scene, Ecker messaged Phelps that something was "terribly wrong." "I swear to god something is not right. I know it I can feel it. Something is terribly wrong," one message read. "Karlie please call me!!!!!! Please something is wrong. I can feel something isn't right."
Phelps admitted to investigators she was not where she had told Ecker she went, but instead went out to buy prescription pain medication, leaving the baby home alone. While there, she began receiving phone calls that her home was on fire and even spoke with briefly with Ecker, during which the man overheard her tell Ecker the baby "was in the house, why did you do that," court records show.
"Go get junior NOW," Phelps messaged Ecker back at 1:07 a.m. "HES INSIDE YOU DIMB (sic) ASS I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU STARTED THAT FIRE. YOU KILLED OUR BABY!!! And you could've killed me!!!"
Autopsy Determined Baby's Lungs were 'Full of Soot'
The baby, whose body was found in a downstairs bedroom, died in the inferno after suffering severe burns. According to the affidavit, the Johnson County Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy and determined that the baby was alive while the blaze burned around him. The report stated that there was "soot in [the baby's] airway" and that his lungs were "full of soot."
The affidavit also says a forensics review at the Johnson County Criminalistics Laboratory determined that the fire "was incendiary or intentionally set" based on a study of "debris samples collected from multiple locations within the residence."
Ecker and Phelps are both scheduled to appear before a judge for a preliminary hearing on March 31, court records show. Karlie's sister, Jackie Phelps, set up a GoFundMe page for her sister, and her two other children, Ivan and Angelina, in the wake of the deadly fire.