A woman in South Dakota has been formally charged with second-degree murder for the death of her 2-year-old niece on Feb. 7. Precious Delancey Black Elk, 22, possibly faces a life sentence without parole after being initially charged with second-degree manslaughter and abuse of a minor.

According to authorities, Black Elk had called 911 regarding a child who was not breathing. Police and fire department officials arrived at the scene but were already too late to save the child. 

Investigators have honed in on Black Elk, citing obvious visual bruising across the child’s body.

“The amount and the severity of the bruising over her entire body was significant and immediately obvious that there was more going on than just a natural death,” Box Elder Police Sgt. Joshua Campbell told local media.

Authorities remain firm on their findings saying the child’s death was no accident confirming autopsy reports that described the cause of death as a homicide.

Black Elk’s attorney said the accused admitted to “losing her temper” and tying her niece’s leg to a bed. However, the defendant’s mother said in court that the child’s bruises were caused by a recent brain surgery, an article on Law and Crime reported.

Magistrate Judge Marya Tellinghuisen sided with prosecutors during a hearing taking into account the defendant’s admission and the autopsy reports.

Black Elk is being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond for two charges including 2nd-degree manslaughter, which is a class four felony that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. She was also handed a $20,000 fine along with charges of aggravated child abuse which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine, Newscenter1 wrote.

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