Charge Dropped in Washing Machine Death

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A judge dismissed a manslaughter charge against a teenager whose 5-year-old half-sister died after he put her in a coin-operated laundry machine that then began running.

The ruling Thursday by Judge Charles Lincoln (search) came after prosecutors said they did not believe they could convict the 14-year-old boy.

The boy put 30-pound Hope Wagoner (search) into the triple-load machine "during a playful game between brother and sister" on June 17 in Chilhowie, defense attorney John Graham said.

The boy put no coins in the machine but it started anyway, Graham said. The boy tried "frantically" to stop the washer and free his sister, taking a large rock from the parking lot to smash at the glass, Graham said.

The children's mother, Rebecca Wagoner (search), ultimately used the same rock to break through the glass and free Hope. The child died of asphyxiation, a medical examiner ruled.

The washer requires 11 quarters to operate and will not accept coins until the heavy door is shut, officials have said.

Rebecca Wagoner has sued the washing machine's maker, claiming it knew the model had a history of starting up without the insertion of coins but failed to fix the problem. Pellerin Milnor Corp. of Louisiana responded that the machine had received a new coin-counter before the accident.