Mom charged in Shawnee toddler’s arson fire death accused of intimidating witness

Karlie Phelps and young Nicholas Ecker
Karlie Phelps and young Nicholas Ecker(KCTV5 News)
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 12:34 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A Shawnee mom charged with involuntary manslaughter in the fire that killed her young child last month now faces two additional criminal charges.

Karlie Phelps, 28, was previously charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. She was charged this week with violating a protection order and intimidating a witness. Charging documents filed in Johnson County Court allege Phelps was told as part of the manslaughter case that she cannot have contact with or intimidate someone listed in the paperwork only as “E.L.” The court documents accuse Phelps of violating those orders.

Phelps remains in the Johnson County Detention Center on $360,000 bond, and had an arraignment on the new charges early Friday afternoon.

Crews responded at 12:54 a.m. on Feb. 13 to a house on West 69th Terrace near Larsen Lane and found the single-family home engulfed in flames. While searching the house, firefighters found a young child’s body in a crib in a downstairs bedroom, according to court documents.

An autopsy revealed the toddler was still alive as the fire raged, as indicated by his lungs being “full of soot,” according to the medical examiner. The child suffered severe burns throughout his body.

Shortly after the fire, the child’s father---also named Nicholas Ecker---was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson. The child’s mother---Karlie Phelps---was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangerment of a child.

A police interview of Phelps indicated she left the child at home in his crib so she could go out to a home in Kansas City, KS, and buy prescription pain medication from a man whose name was redactedvin the court documents. During that time, the affidavit indicates Ecker was texting with Phelps, “upset about some flowers,” but the court documents don’t further explain.

At that time, Phelps got on the phone with Ecker, and the man Phelps was with heard her tell him that their son “was in the house. Why did you do that?” Phelps then received several calls saying her house was on fire, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Court documents state Phelps, after the fire, let police download the information on her phone, and it revealed the following text conversation between Phelps and Ecker:

Ecker: “where is jr. please tell me you have jr. something is wrong”

Phelps: “Nothings wrong no he’s sleeping in bed smh I have the camera on him wyd there nick?...”

Ecker: “baby something is not right.”

Phelps: “Go get junior NOW. HES INSIDE YOU DIMB ASS I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU STARTED THAT FIRE. YOU KILLED OUR BABY!! And you could’ve killed me!!!”

Phelps and Ecker both have a preliminary hearing on March 31 at 10:30 a.m.