Kalispell Women Deny Locking Children in Basement Without Food

Amy Lynn Newman and Crystal Marie Mears appeared in Flathead County District Court

By Justin Franz
Crystal Mears appears in Flathead County District Court on June 16. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon.

Two Kalispell women pleaded not guilty to charges of felony criminal endangerment after they allegedly locked three children in a basement without food, light or access to a proper toilet.

Amy Lynn Newman, 46, and Crystal Marie Mears, 37, appeared in Flathead County District Court on June 16. Both women have been charged with three counts of criminal endangerment.

According to court documents, staff with the Department of Child and Family Services removed four children from a home on Fifth Avenue West in Kalispell in March. The children were removed from the home after staff members learned that Newman and Mears were allegedly locking three of the children, ages 9, 11, and 12, in the basement on a regular basis.

After the children were removed from the home, the Kalispell Police Department conducted a search and found numerous locks on the basement door, including padlocks and zip-ties. Upon going downstairs, law enforcement found that all of the windows were boarded up. They also found a bucket that the children allegedly used to go to the bathroom.

During separate interviews, Newman and Mears allegedly told police that they both kept the kids locked in the basement at night.

It’s unclear how the two women are related to the children.

Both women were arrested in May but have since posted bond. Mears is represented by attorney Tim Wenz and Newman is represented by attorney Sean Hinchey.

During the arraignment before Judge Robert Allison, prosecutor Alison Howard raised concerns that both women were violating the terms of release by having contact with witnesses and each other. Wenz noted that the two women lived with each other and that they should be allowed to continue to talk with each other because they both have received threats since charges were filed. Allison said he was fine with the two women talking with each other but ordered them to not speak with any witnesses.

If convicted, the women could face up to 30 years in prison. Both are set to go to trial in October.

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