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Mom who allowed barefoot kids <br></br> in below-zero temps sentenced

A mother accused of exposing her barefoot daughters to subzero temperatures was sentenced Wednesday in a Grand Forks courtroom on two counts of child neglect.

A mother accused of exposing her barefoot daughters to subzero temperatures was sentenced Wednesday in a Grand Forks courtroom on two counts of child neglect.

In lieu of prison, 22-year-old Breanna Prather plans to spend a six-month term at a Fargo shelter that houses single-parent families and addresses chemical-dependency issues. After that, she must serve three years of supervised probation.

Prather, who now lives in Fargo, took her underdressed 5-year-old and 2-year-old outside when the air temperature was 13 below zero and the wind chill was 37 below, according to a criminal complaint. The incident occurred just before midnight Feb. 26 in Grand Forks.

Authorities said Prather's children -- a 2-year-old wearing a jacket, hat and cotton pants, and a 5-year-old in a jacket and Capri pants -- were both crying. The older child walked barefoot about 30 feet in the snow, police reported.

"I realize the severity of what I did, and I have a lot of guilt," Prather told the judge Wednesday. "I know that what I did was wrong."

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Prather's court-appointed attorney, David Ogren, said his client has an alcohol problem, but has been sober for more than five months and attends support meetings three times a week.

Prosecutor Jason McCarthy said Prather had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 the night of the incident.

"Had the officers not been called, who knows what would have happened to those poor kids," McCarthy said.

The sentence imposed by Judge Sonja Clapp of state District Court was the punishment recommended in a plea agreement.

Prather also faced a misdemeanor assault charge, stemming from an accusation that she assaulted an adult the same day, but that charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

The judge said Prather has been attending supervised visits with her daughters. Grand Forks County Social Services is considering reuniting Prather with the girls, Ogren said.

The judge ordered Prather to undergo a chemical-dependency evaluation and follow through with recommendations from Social Services.

Ingersoll reports on crime and courts. Reach him at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com .

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