Public Safety

Possible plea again for Iowa City home day care provider accused of child neglect after judge rejected first one

Pictured is the Iowa City home where a 7-month-old child died while at the in-home daycare of Wendy D. Young. (Madison Arnold/The Gazette).
Pictured is the Iowa City home where a 7-month-old child died while at the in-home daycare of Wendy D. Young. (Madison Arnold/The Gazette).
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IOWA CITY — Another possible plea hearing is set next year for a home day care provider accused of being neglectful of children in her care, including a 7-month-old who died, after a judge rejected her first plea last month.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns on Friday set a hearing for Wendy Dee Young, 49, of Iowa City, Feb. 11 in Johnson County District Court, following a case management conference with the defense and prosecution. The hearing wasn’t in open court but court documents show if a written guilty plea is filed and accepted by the court before the hearing, the hearing will be canceled.

Bruns’ order indicates the plea hasn’t been finalized because Young’s lawyer, John Bruzek, and Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann-Smith agreed to reset the trial, originally set Nov. 26, to April 2.

Last month, Young made a written Alford plea to a lesser charge, child endangerment without injury, an aggravated misdemeanor. She would have faced up to two years in jail but the plea included that jail time would be suspended and she would serve two years probation.

She also planned to ask for a deferred judgment, which means the convictions could be wiped from her record if she completes her probation without violations.

In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but agrees the prosecution has enough evidence for a likely conviction.

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

Senior Judge Carl Baker declined to enter an order in response to the plea and rejected it Oct. 31.

Zimmermann-Smith, after the conference Friday, declined to explain why the first plea was rejected and if the same plea agreement is being offered to Young. She did say a presentencing investigation report, which is conducted by probation officials to include details of the defendant’s background and the offense to aid the judge in sentencing, will be ordered.

This isn’t the first time in recent months that a judge didn’t accept a Johnson County 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.

In September, a different judge also rejected the plea without jail time and sentenced Richards to two years.

Zimmermann-Smith previously said she couldn’t provide many details of this case but did say, according to the autopsy, the cause of death for 7-month-old Sawyer Springsteen is unknown.

Court documents show 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.

She said the infant didn’t seem sick that day, according to court documents. At some point after lunch while Sawyer was taking a nap, Young checked on him and found 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.

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

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