A judge has sentenced the woman accused of leaving her 3-year-old child alone in her Norwalk home to buy crack cocaine in Lorain County.
On Tuesday, Mary J. Slater, 33, now of Cleveland, said she had no intention of putting her 3-year-old daughter in danger. The defendant also told Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway that she'd made baby-sitting arrangements as she reportedly went to work as a welder in Milan.
A Norwalk Water Distribution Department employee reported finding Slater's daughter unattended when he was there to turn off the water for non-payment Jan. 6.
"She (Slater) claimed she had a friend there baby-sitting when she left. ... We weren't able to substantiate that," Norwalk Police Capt. Eric Hipp said in January.
About 9:45 a.m. Jan. 6, Slater said one of her neighbors called her to say police were at her home and she needed to return.
Slater and her attorney, James Barilla, also told Conway that the drugs found in the Chevrolet Trail Blazer she was driving belonged to another woman -- someone Slater said she'd never met. Norwalk police have said Slater returned to her North Prospect Street home 48 minutes after leaving for Lorain to buy cocaine. Slater arrived in a sport utility vehicle (SUV) that was sold during related proceedings through Huron County Juvenile Court.
Detective Sgt. Jim Fulton's report indicates officers found two baggies with three rocks of crack cocaine and the stem of a crack pipe in a cigarette carton in the SUV. The investigator's report lists many other pieces of drug paraphernalia that police also seized and inventoried as evidence.
Slater told police "please drug-test me. I don't use drugs," Barilla told the court Tuesday.
On Jan. 6, the water meter worker worked, trying to get the water off, at Slater's home for 20 to 30 minutes before noticing the girl was inside. The police report says the girl eventually told the man her mother wasn't home and she needed help.
After determining all the doors and windows were locked and secured and not being able to locate Slater or any of the girl's adult relatives, police called the Norwalk Fire Department to force entry. Lt. John Soisson and firefighter Curt Stang removed an air conditioning unit from a rear window, which allowed one of them to crawl inside the house and open the door.
Authorities found the girl hiding under a blanket on a couch.
Slater's daughter now is in the temporary custody of her biological father, who only had visitation rights soon after the incident. The girl originally was placed into the custody of her maternal grandfather.
A custody trial is scheduled for Sept. 27.
Slater, when she's not behind bars, is allowed to have supervised visits with her daughter at the Huron County Department of Job & Family Services, juvenile court administrator Chris Mushett said Tuesday. A social worker arranges the supervised visits.
On July 11, Slater, a single mother, pleaded guilty to possession of crack cocaine.
"She maintains she'd never leave her child alone," Barilla said at Tuesday's sentencing hearing.
Conway took a recess during the proceedings to confer with Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer DeLand, who handled the juvenile court case.
The judge sentenced Slater up to six months in a community-based corrections facility (CBCF), a form of prison which focuses on substance abuse treatment and education. Conway told Slater she'd have the opportunity to acquire parenting and social skills while at the CBCF, noting they would benefit her.
The judge said Slater expressed remorse, but he's not sure she's taken responsibility for what happened.
Slater also was fined $250 and ordered to reimburse Norwalk police $40 to cover the cost of drug testing. She also had her driver's license suspended for six months.
If Slater violates the terms of her three years of probation, she faces one year in prison.
Her attorney, Barilla, was asked what he thought of his client's sentence.
"I think what the judge did was appropriate in the light of the facts," Barilla said.
"The judge's job is to protect the public. He thought Mary needed help; I'm not one to argue that," he said.