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Plea agreement reached for day care operator in pool-related death of 5-year-old girl

BISMARCK - A plea agreement has been reached in the case of a day care operator who was charged after a child under her supervision was found unresponsive in a public swimming pool in Velva and later died, her attorney said Monday.

BISMARCK – A plea agreement has been reached in the case of a day care operator who was charged after a child under her supervision was found unresponsive in a public swimming pool in Velva and later died, her attorney said Monday.

Minot attorney Paul Probst, who is representing former KidQuarters operator Heather Tudor, said that under the proposed plea agreement reached with McHenry County State's Attorney Cassey Breyer, Tudor would plead guilty to operating without a license and child neglect and would receive probation but no jail time.

A felony charge of negligent homicide would be dismissed, Probst said, adding the charge "should have never been brought."

Tudor, 45, would plead guilty to the Class C felony child neglect charge, but it will be listed as a misdemeanor on her record after she successfully completes her probation, Probst said.

Judge Laurie Fontaine still must approve the plea agreement, with a possible decision coming at Tudor's next court appearance Monday. If the judge rejects the agreement, Tudor will proceed with a jury trial slated to begin April 4, Probst said.

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Breyer did not return phone messages seeking comment Monday.

The charges allege that Tudor "willfully failed to provide proper supervision" of 5-year-old Gracelyn Aschenbrenner, who was found unresponsive June 8 in the Velva city pool, and that Tudor's child care license from the state Department of Human Services was expired at the time of the incident. The girl remained on life support until she died July 1 at a Fargo hospital.

Charges also have been filed against a McHenry County social worker who handled the KidQuarters license and against five current or former DHS employees, alleging they impeded the investigation and allowed KidQuarters to operate unlicensed.

On Monday, the state Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee approved DHS rule changes that starting April 1 will require child care providers to obtain written permission from parents before taking their children swimming. The rules also will require providers to have policies in place that ensure the health and safety of kids during aquatic activities, including staff-to-child ratios that are "appropriate to the ages and swimming ability of the children."

The state's Early Childhood Services Advisory board began drafting the rules July 9, about a month after the Velva pool incident, according to DHS officials.

Related Topics: CRIME
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