Public Safety

Iowa City woman pleads to neglect of children, including 7-month-old who died while in her care

Judge sentences her to two years of probation

Wendy Young
Wendy Young

IOWA CITY — A judge accepted an agreement this week for an Iowa City woman to plea to a lesser charge of being neglectful of children in her care, including a 7-month-old who died.

Wendy Young, 49, made an Alford plea to child endangerment without injury, an aggravated misdemeanor, and admitted to drinking alcohol before taking care of the children. She admitted to creating a “substantial risk to the physical, mental or emotional health or safety” of the children when they came to her in-home day care center Oct. 18, 2017, the plea shows.

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

Sixth Judicial District Judge Sean McPartland accepted Young’s plea Monday, placing Young on two years probation and granting a suspended two-year sentence — meaning she could serve jail time if she violates probation.

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. The 7-month-old, along with four other children under age 3, were in Young’s care that day.

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

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmerman-Smith said the state agreed to the lesser charge because it couldn’t prove Young’s actions caused the death of 7-month-old Sawyer Springsteen. The cause of his death is unknown, according to an autopsy.

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Young was originally charged with felony neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, which has a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Zimmerman-Smith said Young waived her appearance at sentencing, and the 7-month-old’s family decided not to provide a statement.

In addition to probation, Young also received a suspended fine of $625 but was ordered to pay court costs, according to court documents.

Young must also continue treatment already in place and participate in any treatment her probation officer may order, according to the plea agreement.

Last October, a similar plea agreement was rejected by a different judge, Senior Judge Carl Baker. In that plea, Young planned to ask for a deferred sentence, which means the conviction could be wiped from court records if she had no violations during the two-year probation.

Young didn’t ask for a deferred sentence in the accepted plea deal.

On Oct. 18, 2017, emergency responders found Sawyer Springsteen 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 the child’s parents said they had taken him 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 child didn’t seem sick that day, according to court documents. At some point after lunch while the child 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 drinking alcohol while taking care of the children, according to court documents. She told police she felt hung over when she woke up at 6 a.m. but said she was not intoxicated. Young then admitted to drinking 10 to 12 beers until 4 a.m. that day.

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

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