By Cameron Rasmusson
The owner of a childcare facility closed by the state will serve probation but no jail time for the injury of a child that occurred on business grounds.
According to Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, whose office prosecuted the case, Magistrate Judge Justin Julian sentenced Little Fit Daycare owner Dennis Ray McLeish to 364 days of unsupervised probation. McLeish is also ordered to pay $750, is barred from working in the childcare industry and must undergo 20 hours of childcare instruction. Julian also granted withheld judgment, meaning that McHugh will not have a criminal conviction entered against him should he fulfill the terms of his sentence.
The state has 60 days to file a motion for restitution.
McLeish initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of injury to a child. He later entered an Alford plea, which is treated as a guilty plea in court with the understanding that the defendant doesn’t admit to the crime.
The sentencing stems from an incident earlier this year, in which a six-month-old infant was found unresponsive at Little Fit Daycare in Ponderay. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare later revoked the daycare’s Idaho Child Care Provider agreement, alleging that children were left unattended while several other children abused the infant.
“In the absence of your care, the infant was hit, held down by the back of the neck, dragged across the carpet, head butted, bit, and hit with wood and plastic toys by other unattended children,” the letter read. “The children’s actions toward the infant, without any adult supervision or intervention, led to the infant’s serious injury which required medical care and hospitalization.”
Responding in media reports to the charges shortly after the incident, McLeish said that the assault wasn’t the result of negligence, but rather an unforeseen tragedy that could happen to the most attentive caregiver.
“(The kids) are laying with (the baby) one minute, they are playing with him for a better portion of it, they were being cute and patting his head and putting a blanket on his back and letting him play with toys, and then they just start assaulting him,” McLeish told KHQ News. “It is literally one of the most horrible things, and it was just so sad to see these babies do that.”
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