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Grand jury indicts Navy wife in Benadryl death of toddler

Judge's gavel in a courtroom, stack of law books. (wp paarz/Flickr)

An Oahu grand jury indicted a 41-year-old Navy wife Thursday for manslaughter in connection with the Benadryl overdose death of a 7-month-old girl in her care.

Honolulu police July 20 arrested Dixie Denise Villa on a $1 million warrant, and she has remained in custody since then.

Circuit Judge Shirley Kawamura reduced the bail Thursday to $500,000 after the grand jury chose not to find Villa eligible for a life prison term.

The normal penalty for manslaughter is 20 years in prison. It can be extended to life with possible release on parole if the victim was 8 years old or younger. A judge may impose an extended sentence only if a guilty defendant was notified in the charging document, in this case the indictment, that he or she is eligible.

Police said Villa reported finding Abigail Lobisch unresponsive in her Aliamanu Military Reservation home the morning of Feb. 24. A city ambulance went to the home, but emergency responders could not revive the girl.

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Anna Lobisch told police she handed off her daughter and Abigail’s 2-1/2-year-old brother to Villa on Feb. 23 for Villa to care for over the weekend.

Police last month classified the case as manslaughter after Dr. Jon Gates, a forensic pathologist at the Honolulu Department of the Medical Examiner, determined that Abigail Lobisch died from an overdose of diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in the antihistamine Benadryl.

Gates says in his autopsy report that Benadryl should not be given to children under 6 years old without consulting a physician and should not be used to make a child fall asleep.

Police said Villa told them the only thing she administered to Lobisch was lotion for sunburn. Benadryl does make creams, but Villa told police that she administered a different brand of lotion.

Deputy Prosecutor Tiffany Kaeo told Kawamura that the Oahu Intake Service Center had recommended supervised release for Villa. She said she requested the $500,000 bail because Villa has immediate family members scattered throughout the mainland to whom she could flee. She also said Villa has a 1999 misdemeanor battery conviction in Florida.

Villa’s husband filed for divorce in May.

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© 2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser