Nearly six months after the suspicious death of a 20-month-old toddler in Broken Bow, the first of two women charged with the child’s death appeared in Custer County Court Monday.
Diane Hill, appeared for arraignment Monday afternoon, with her attorney, Richard Calkins of Alma. Hill is charged with 2nd degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of a child. Both charges are Class IB felonies, and carry a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.
According to court documents, on Nov. 25, 2013, Investigator Michael C. Dowling, of the Nebraska State Patrol, was asked to meet with the Broken Bow Police Department regarding the suspicious death of 20-month-old Noah J. Pryce.
The child had been transported to Jennie Melham Memorial Medical Center in Broken Bow by Broken Bow ambulance Nov. 17, 2013, with noticeable bruising to the eye.
The child was then transferred by medical helicopter first to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney and then to the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha. After several life saving medical interventions were administered unsuccessfully by medical personnel, Noah Pryce was pronounced dead of his injuries Nov. 22, 2013, by UNMC personnel.
The child was a ward of the State of Nebraska at the time of the sustained injuries, under the foster placement care of either Richard J. Pryce and/or Brittney L. Price and/or Diane Hill. Both Hill and Brittney Price have been charged.
Court records state that during an interview with authorities, Brittney Pryce said she asked her mother, Diane Hill, to come over to the Pryce residence and watch the kids while Brittney ran errands around Broken Bow. Pryce told authorities her mother was alone with the children for approximately one hour, from 10-11 a.m.
Pryce says her mother later told her that while the children were playing in the living room, “Noah tripped over a toy and hit his head on a wooden rocking horse.”
Investigator Dowling noted that he had an interview scheduled with Hill for Nov. 27, 2013. However, he received a phone call from her that day informing him she would not be able to make it to the interview. The Investigator stated that when he asked for a different interview date, Hill was "reluctant to provide one".
Pryce was again interviewed Jan. 3, 2014, and this time she told the investigator she had gotten two different stories from her mother on just how Noah was injured. The Investigator also expressed concern about Hill’s demeanor during the time the ambulance was called and while at the hospital.
Investigator Dowling was finally able to catch up with Hill Jan. 3, 2014; however, she told him she had been advised by her attorney not to speak with law enforcement.
The Investigator confirms that Brittney Pryce and Diane Hill were the two people in contact with Noah Pryce at the time that his injuries occurred Nov. 17, 2013. The autopsy report, prepared by Pathologist Dr. Erin M. Linde from the Douglas County Morgue, states the cause of death was blunt force injury of the head incurred by the child on Nov. 17, 2013. The autopsy manner of death was ruled as a homicide.
Diane Hill and Brittney Pryce were arrested March 25, 2014. Both face the same charges. Mike Guinan and Bill Tangeman, with the Attorney General’s office, are acting as special deputies in prosecuting the case.
A preliminary hearing for Hill was set for June 2 at 1:30 p.m. Pryce is scheduled to be arraigned in Custer County Court May 12 at 9 a.m.