EMMETT, Idaho — After rescheduling a preliminary hearing several times, the grandmother of the Emmett girl whose body was found in a trash bag in a car appeared in the Gem County Courthouse on Tuesday.
Connie Ann Smith, 54, is charged with a felony failure to notify of death and destruction of evidence.
Idaho State Police said the body found in the black plastic trash bag in Smith’s car is missing eight-year-old Taryn Summers.
A teacher at HeadStart Preschool in Emmett was the first witness to testify on Tuesday. She told the court she had one of the Summers’ children in her class and had interactions with Smith, as well as Taryn Summers. The teacher said Smith would often pick up and drop off the children in a black car or a red pickup truck.
The teacher said she interacted with Smith on April 12, the same day Taryn was reported missing from her home on Airport Road in Emmett.
Smith picked up one of the children from HeadStart but told them to be quiet getting into the car because Taryn was sleeping in the back of a black car, according to the teacher.
Jason McIntosh, the lead investigator with the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, was also brought to testify to the court. He was part of the investigation for when Taryn was reported missing from her home on Airport Road on April 12. McIntosh testified that he had contact with Smith while investigating that week.
McIntosh said when he first spoke with Smith she told him that she went into Taryn’s room to give her snacks around 4 p.m., but she declined the food. Smith then went to go check on the other children and go make dinner. Smith checked on Taryn an hour later, but she was not in her room.
Smith did not call law enforcement until 7 p.m., according to McIntosh.
The prosecutor asked about the piece of carpet from Taryn’s room that had been cut out, which McIntosh was told by Smith was because Taryn defecated on it and rubbed it in. Smith said her carpet vacuum was broken so she had to cut it out and took it to a burn pile she had in the backyard to burn it.
According to McIntosh, law enforcement had removed the other children from Smith’s home. When it came to the issue of getting car seats for the kids, Smith told McIntosh and other investigators they had to get the car seats from the pickup truck because she could not find the keys to the black Lexus.
McIntosh said Smith did not notify him or other law enforcement agencies of Taryn’s death.
Patrol Sgt. Jerimiah West with Idaho State Police was next to testify in front of the court on Tuesday. In April, he was working with ISP District 3 as a detective where he also assisted in search efforts at the Airport Road home.
Sgt. West found multiple keys on top of the upper cabinets in the kitchen. He said he could not see the top of the cabinets, but from prior experience, he knew sometimes there are items that are out of reach and hidden.
Once he found the keys, Sgt. West and another ISP trooper went outside to see which keys fit in the vehicle. He was able to access the driver's side door and the trunk of the black Lexus that was in front of the home. He also tried the keys on other vehicles at the property.
The defense attorney also brought in Sgt. Jason Horst, a detective with Idaho State Police at the Meridian office who assisted with the search at the Airport Road home, to testify among the court. Horst said he searched the black Lexus on the property.
“At a point in the search of the car, something did catch my attention,” Horst said. He added after searching the trunk, he opened the rest of the car doors and noticed a black garbage bag in the backseats.
Horst opened the bag and found a young child in it.
“It had bright hair and the complexion of the skin was very pale and the lips, what seemed to me, were blueish in color, I immediately thought it was the body of Taryn Summers,” Horst said.
DNA results sent to the Idaho State Police forensics laboratory confirmed the body in the bag was Taryn Summers.
Gem County Coroner John L. Buck was also called over the phone to testify in court. He said he was brought in back in April to investigate an unattended death.
“I think in this case you can make reasonable inferences to intent based on the actions of the defendant,” said Gem County Prosecuting Attorney Erick Thomson as he addressed the court.
Gem County Judge Tyler Smith found the burden of proof in both charges against Connie Smith. She is set to appear for an arraignment on Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. in district court. She will stay at the Gem County Jail, where her bond is set for $800,000.
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