WARRENTON, Ga. - Lottie Kain pleaded not guilty Monday to charges related to the April drownings of her two small children and is now set to be tried in early October.
Ms. Kain, who has been held in the McDuffie County jail since her arrest last month, was arraigned in Warren County Superior Court on two felony counts of cruelty to children in the second degree.
Authorities allege it was Ms. Kain's lack of supervision that allowed 3-year-old Jonah Payne and 2-year-old Nicole Payne to disappear from their Lake Drive home April 23.
The children's bodies were discovered two days later in a nearby sewage pond after an extensive search by several law enforcement agencies.
Ms. Kain's lawyer, Chip Wallace, requested a jury trial for his client.
Toombs Judicial District Attorney Dennis Sanders said that the plea was what he had expected and that Ms. Kain likely will stand trial in Warrenton during the first week of October.
"We just hope it won't be delayed," he said after the arraignment. "We have already started the discovery process and are in the process of supplying the other side with our files."
Mr. Sanders would not elaborate on the evidence or witnesses he might call to the stand other than to say, "We feel confident that we can prove the case."
Mr. Sanders said that Ms. Kain failed to supervise her son and daughter properly and that her carelessness rose to the level of criminal negligence.
There still are questions about the circumstances surrounding Jonah and Nicole's deaths, but whether they wandered off or were snatched, their mother should have been able to account for them, Mr. Sanders said.
During the weekend, the children's father, Dennis Payne, told The Augusta Chronicle he was angry Ms. Kain had been arrested, and he contended an intruder had taken the toddlers.
"I still feel there's foul play and so much is being covered up," Mr. Payne said. "As far as I know, Lottie didn't do anything wrong. I'm going to be behind her every bit."
He also expressed frustration that many neighbors and community members assume he and his fiance are to blame.
He said those same neighbors persistently visit his children's grave sites at Scruggs Cemetery in Norwood.
"I don't want anyone at the cemetery to come see the kids anymore," Mr. Payne said, adding that he has considered digging up their bodies and having them cremated.
"We're planning to go back to Arizona," the children's father said. "We just want to get the hell out of this state."