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Woman gets suspended prison term, probation in baby's drowning

February 07, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A woman whose 7-month-old baby drowned in the bathtub while she slept after taking prescription medication pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless endangerment Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court and was given a suspended state prison sentence.

“I will never get past this,” Taria Michelle King, 27, said before Judge Daniel P. Dwyer gave her a suspended sentence of 2 1/2 years and placed her on three years of unsupervised probation.

A Washington County grand jury in October indicted King on charges of manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the death of 7-month-old Ronald Oliver Jr. at her apartment at 309 E. Ridge Drive, Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson told Dwyer.

“The state is not seeking incarceration at this time,” Wilson told the judge. He noted King had been cooperative with police in the investigation.

King had placed her two children, Ronald Oliver and an older sibling, in the tub and left the bathroom, Wilson said. Ronald Oliver was restrained in a child seat in the tub to keep him upright, he said.

She then took a prescribed anti-anxiety medication, which has a known side-effect of drowsiness, and fell asleep, Wilson said.

“She awoke to the screaming of the older child” and found her youngest son face down in the bathtub, Wilson said.

The older son was described as a toddler in a Hagerstown Police Department incident report. There were about 4 inches of water in the tub, the report said.

When interviewed by investigators, King told them she normally placed the two children in the tub together, the report said.

“She’s very aware of the effect this might have on him,” defense attorney Bernard W. Semler II said of King’s surviving child. “It would probably be better ... if he did not remember all that occurred.”

King had no significant criminal record prior to the death of her son and no illegal drugs were found in a search of the apartment, Wilson told Dwyer.

While King had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, she is no longer taking the particular medication she was using on March 7, Semler told Dwyer.

Dwyer said he agreed with the state’s recommendation, adding that he doubted anything he or the state of Maryland could impose on King would be more than she has already put herself through.

“The behavior resulted in a tragedy, but it was certainly unintentional,” Dwyer said.

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