Public Safety

Day care provider charged in infant death has plea rejected

Pictured is the Iowa City home where a 7-month-old child died at the in-home day care of Wendy D. Young. (Madison Arnold/The Gazette)
Pictured is the Iowa City home where a 7-month-old child died at the in-home day care of Wendy D. Young. (Madison Arnold/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — A home day care provider accused of being neglectful of children in her care, including a 7-month-old who died, made a written plea to a lesser charge Wednesday, but a judge rejected it.

Wendy Dee Young, 49, of Iowa City, made an Alford plea to child endangerment without injury, an aggravated misdemeanor. She would have faced up to two years in jail and a $6,250 fine.

Sixth Judicial District Senior Judge Carl Baker declined to enter an order in response to the plea agreement and rejected it.

Young was originally charged with felony neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, which is up to a 10-year prison sentence.

With an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a likely conviction. Young, in the written plea, admitted that the prosecution had evidence to prove she had been drinking and took children into her care, which “created a substantial risk to physical, mental or emotional health or safety of the children.”

According to the plea, Young also would have received a suspended sentence and serve two years of probation. She also planned to ask for a deferred judgment at sentencing.

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann-Smith said Wednesday afternoon she couldn’t provide further comment on the judge’s order to reject the plea.

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This isn’t the first time in recent months that a judge rejected a plea agreement involving a death that didn’t include prison time. A judge rejected a plea agreement in July for Kaitlyn Richards, 22, of Cedar Rapids, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a fatal crash that killed Patty Mittauer, 55, of Swisher, on Jan. 24, 2016. Richards was speeding and texting, authorities said.

A prosecutor agreed to the lesser charge and probation.

A different judge at sentencing in September also rejected the plea without jail time and sentenced Richards to two years.

Earlier on Wednesday, after Young made her written plea, Zimmermann-Smith said she couldn’t provide many details of the case but did say the cause of death for 7-month-old Sawyer Springstreen is unknown.

The infant’s family members were informed about the plea agreement, Zimmermann-Smith added.

According to court documents, Young admitted to drinking about 10 to 12 beers until about two hours before the day care opened at 6:30 a.m. Oct. 18. Sawyer, along with four other children under the age of 3, were in Young’s care that day.

Emergency responders found Sawyer unresponsive when they arrived about 2:21 p.m. at Young’s home, police said. She told officers she ran to a neighbor’s home to ask them to call 911 because she couldn’t find her phone.

Young told police that Sawyer’s parents said they had taken the infant to a hospital a couple of days before and he had a viral infection. The infant hadn’t been in Young’s care for a few days because of the infection.

Court documents show Sawyer’s parents dropped him off about 6:40 a.m. that day and he had ibuprofen to take if needed. Young said Sawyer didn’t seem sick. After lunch, Young put him down for a nap in a playpen. About 15 minutes later, Young’s parents arrived, which woke up Sawyer, who appeared normal. Then about 15 minutes later when Young checked on Sawyer, he was “blue, not breathing and felt limp when she picked him up.”

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Initially, she denied any abnormal activity, trauma or drinking alcohol while taking care of the children, according to court documents. She did say she felt hung over at 6 a.m. when she got up but not intoxicated. Young then admitted to drinking 10 to 12 beers until 4 a.m. that day.

Young consented to a breath test, which showed her blood alcohol content level was 0.045. Iowa’s legal drinking limit is 0.08.

Young, as a home day care provider, wasn’t required to be licensed by the state. Providers who take in five or fewer children don’t require a license or to be registered by the state, police said.

Sawyer was born March 7, 2017, in Iowa City, according to an online obituary from Powell Funeral Home in Keota.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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