The owner and site director of a former Clermont day care each pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in connection to a child scalded by one of the teachers.
Minnie Sue Dupree and Tara Miller pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer. Superior Court Judge Jason Deal sentenced the two women to 12 months of probation.
“This year and a half has been the most difficult period in all of my long life,” Dupree said in a statement through attorney Graham McKinnon. “Anyone who knows me knows I would never condone the mistreatment of any child entrusted in my care, which is why this case has so troubled me for casting a shadow over my reputation and career.”
Charges arose from a June 2014 incident involving then 16-month-old Damon Gaddis, who suffered second- and third-degree burns. Day care worker Eddye Pittmon was convicted of battery and first-degree child cruelty last month and sentenced to eight years in prison for scalding the child with hot water at Discovering Basics day care.
“My client passed an independent polygraph, which she passed and exonerated her as it related to knowing anything about the small child or being involved with the child,” Miller’s attorney Jeff Talley said.
Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva said the state’s intention was to not prosecute on the charges Dupree and Miller currently faced.
Dupree was originally charged with giving false statements to authorities. Miller faced a second-degree child cruelty charge.
McKinnon and Talley initially intended to enter no contest pleas for their clients.
In support, McKinnon said Dupree had been told previously by Bright from the Start that the water did not get hot enough.
The actions taken weren’t to obstruct law enforcement, McKinnon said, but the defense understood how it could be viewed.
Citing the seriousness of the case, Deal declined to accept the no contest pleas.
After a few minutes of deliberations, the two returned and entered Alford guilty pleas, meaning the two assert innocence but expect that a jury at trial would convict.
“This had nothing to do at all with her and a child or anything like that,” Talley said. “That’s one thing that I want the public to know. She’s not that person.”
The women also face a $1,000 fine, community service and cannot be employed in a business involving children.
“Regardless of my own personal situation and well-being, I am even more thankful that this child is healthy and fully recovered,” Dupree said in a statement. “That’s what is most important to me.”