Testimony in toddler's death Wednesday - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Testimony in toddler's death Wednesday


Burnett County (WQOW) - The tragic death of a 3-year-old girl near Danbury has become a court case attorneys say is unlike anything they've ever seen.  WOQW News 18 was in the courtroom for the preliminary hearing Wednesday in Burnett County.

At the Burnett County Government Center a judge made an important ruling in the case of two parents charged in the death of their young daughter.  This summer, Reena Williams wandered away from home and drowned just 25 yards away.

Jenna Danish and Thomas Williams were in court Wednesday, where prosecutors laid out their case, accusing the couple of neglect, resulting in death, at their home surrounded by water.

Defense Attorney, William Norrine, says, "When you have a circumstance where you have a very dangerous environment, I would argue the standard of care increases in that instance."

Public Defender, James Rennicke , says, "We all as parents want to supervise our children.  I think the overall history is that they did supervise their child."

Wednesday the judge heard from witness after witness about the girl apparently wandering off, up to a half-mile from home, numerous times.

Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Bybee testified he saw a sheet covering the kitchen window that had a direct view of the spot where Reena drowned.

He said, "That's the river where Reena's body was found. That's the view Tom would have had, had he been looking out the window."

Bybee also testified a witness said he was smoking synthetic marijuana with Thomas Williams at the table by the window, around the time Reena disappeared. Bybee quoted what that witness told him.

"He said, if he hadn't been stoned he might have been able to do," says, Bybee.

Both the defense and prosecution say this case is unchartered territory.  That's because even though both sides agree Reena Williams death was accidental, prosecutors are alleging that accidental death was the result of neglect. 

After the judge ordered the couple to stand trial, Danish pleaded not guilty.  Williams stood silent, so the judge entered not guilty for him. Danish's lawyer told the judge he plans to request separate trials for each defendant, and intends to request moving the trial to another county due to all of the news coverage the case has received.

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