Stephany Bilecki, 26, faces two counts of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of her two young daughters. She was charged in 2018 and bail was set at $2 million after she was considered a flight risk. The case attracted national media attention. On Monday, her anticipated three-week trial was set to start Nov. 1.
“This is a 2018 murder case. It has high priority,” Superior Court Judge Patricia L. Haines said at the trial date hearing at Rabinowitz Courthouse.
Bilecki was arraigned on Aug. 31, 2018, on charges that she caused the deaths of her 4-month-old daughter on Sept. 15, 2015, and her 13-month-old daughter on Nov. 20, 2017. Autopsy results indicated the 13-month-old died of complications of lack of oxygen to the brain. The 4-month-old reportedly died in a similar manner.
Bilecki was originally set to stand trial on Dec. 31, 2018, according to online court records. That was put off to Sept. 30, 2019. The next trial date provided was May 18, 2020. That was put off due to Covid-19. Last month, lawyers met again and failed to agree on a trial date.
Alaska’s criminal procedure Rule 45 dictates that defendants be brought to trial within 120 days of the time they are served with charging documents or indictments but trial dates are commonly delayed for a variety of reasons, including pretrial motions, requests for continuance, competency hearings or the availability of witnesses. Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic has lengthened these delays.
Bilecki has protested delays in conducting her trial.
The case was originally under Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy, who has since retired.
The death of Bilecki’s 4-month-old daughter was not originally investigated as a homicide because there was no evidence of foul play at the time. The cause of death was officially undetermined, "but the symptoms were consistent with a suffocation death," according to Fairbanks police, who investigated.
Authorities began a double-homicide investigation after discovering similarities between the first child's death and the 2017 death of Bilecki's 13-month old daughter. The girls, who had different fathers, were otherwise healthy babies, according to autopsy reports.
Bilecki’s cellphone showed she had been “conducting suspicious internet searches in the hour before she reported that she found (her toddler) unresponsive,” according to a bail memorandum filed in Fairbanks Superior Court. Some of the searches included “ways to sufficate” (sic); “best ways to sufficate” (sic); and “ways to kill a human with no proof.”
Bilecki also visited web pages including “how to commit the perfect murder” and “16 steps to kill someone and not get caught,” according to the memorandum.
With each girl’s death, she spent minutes making calls and text messages before calling 911 to report that the children weren’t breathing, according to court records.
The amount of evidence, known as discovery, in the case is “voluminous,” according to the prosecutor.
Bilecki was originally charged under her married name of Stephany LaFountain and has since divorced and gone back to her maiden name. She was living on Fort Wainwright at the time of her second daughter’s death and her former husband, William Lafountain, was deployed. He attended the trial date setting by telephone.
Bilecki is from Oregon and moved to Fairbanks with family as a teenager. She graduated from the Fairbanks BEST homeschool program and was working at Credit Union One on Fort Wainwright at the time of her arrest.
Lawyers with the prosecution and the defense both said they were working on pretrial motions. A pretrial conference was set for Oct. 11 at 2:30 p.m.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMborough.