A former Frederick County day care operator pleaded guilty to child neglect and was sentenced to serve three years of supervised probation Monday morning in Circuit Court.
Doris Marie Ott, 51, of the 7900 block of Mount Pleasant Court near Walkersville, was silent in court Monday, limiting herself to answering her attorney Michelle Martz’s questions confirming she understood the rights she was waiving by agreeing to a plea rather than continuing to trial.
Ott was originally scheduled to go to trial Tuesday on charges of second-degree assault and two counts each of neglect of a minor and reckless endangerment, but instead reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to one count of neglect of a minor on the condition that a three-year jail sentence would be suspended in favor of three years of supervised probation.
Frederick County Circuit Judge Theresa M. Adams also previously agreed to bind the court to the agreed-upon term of supervised probation, meaning the terms of the probation were the only details left to Adams’ discretion by the time Monday’s hearing began.
Ott’s charges date back to April 10, 2018, when a Frederick County sheriff’s deputy met with the parents of a toddler who had just been admitted to Frederick Health Hospital with what appeared to be signs of intoxication. Blood and urine tests later confirmed the boy’s level of intoxication was on par with that of a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit for an adult to drive in Maryland, according to stories published previously in The Frederick News-Post.
Sheriff’s deputies did not request for the test results obtained by the hospital to be preserved and the data was later thrown out. While Martz asserted that the destruction of the tests was significant, Frederick County Assistant State’s Attorney Tammy Leache, speaking after Monday’s hearing, argued that the lack of the original test data was largely irrelevant.
“The hospital took the blood, but they were not required to preserve that data, and I don’t think it’s fair to say that the police did anything out of the norm,” Leache said. “... The bottom line is, the baby should not have had any alcohol in its system, period.”
The child’s parents dropped the child off in good health at Ott’s home day care center between 8:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. that morning and did not hear of any problems until Ott called the boy’s mother at 3:15 p.m. to say that she could not wake the child, charging documents state. The boy’s mother later told police she smelled alcohol on her son’s breath during the drive to the hospital, and charging documents indicate that sheriff’s deputies had reason to believe the child became intoxicated while in Ott’s care.
Despite the fact that attorneys sparred at Monday’s hearing over the original allegations of Ott’s involvement in the child’s alleged intoxication level, Adams said the charge Ott pleaded guilty to did not pertain to that.
“I have heard that a child was in distress, needed medical help, and for 16 minutes no one called 911. That is what I have heard,” Adams said at one point in the hearing, reminding the attorneys of the exact charge Ott to which had pleaded guilty. “... Sadly, I don’t think any of us know what made that child sick that day.”
Despite Adams’ statements, the child’s parents, Alexis and Brandon Hudak, said they were not satisfied with the plea agreement reached in Ott’s case, with Brandon Hudak calling Ott’s sentence of three years of supervised probation “a joke.” Meanwhile, Alexis Hudak said in court that she regretted overlooking previous incidents where her son came home smelling like alcohol, explaining she had dismissed them as Ott using a hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes to clean her son’s face.
“I never thought it was because she was poisoning my son with alcohol. ... My husband and I believe she should go to jail for what she did,” the mother said.
Speaking after the hearing, Leache said she understood the parents’ frustrations with the sentence, but pointed out that the sentence agreed to in the plea agreement reached in the case was on par with the sentencing guidelines.
“[The parents] wanted [Ott] to admit to her giving the baby alcohol, but we knew she wasn’t going to do that,” Leache said. “... And guidelines were probation to probation, so it was unlikely that the judge would have gone above that.”
Martz confirmed that Ott voluntarily relinquished her day care license early in the court process, but said she wanted Adams and the court to know that plenty of clients were willing to speak to her credit regardless.
In a written statement responding to The Frederick News-Post, Martz reiterated the points she argued in court that Ott pleaded guilty only to not calling 911 after noticing the child was in distress.
“There was no ill intent in the act of contacting his mother and not 911. To the contrary, Doris Ott’s priority at all times was the well-being of the child. Hindsight is 20/20. Knowing now what she does about [the child’s] condition on April 10, 2018, Doris would have called 911 instead of contacting his mother,” Martz’s statement reads in part. “... She did not give alcohol to this child and following the plea all alcohol-related charges were dismissed by the state.”