A woman accused of negligent child abuse in the death of a 15-month-old boy made her first court appearance Wednesday morning.
Elizabeth Harding faces one to 20 years in prison for negligent child abuse resulting in death for the February 22nd strangulation death of one-year-old Chase Hunter.
Wednesday morning in the courtroom at the Douglas County Jail, prosecutors say Elizabeth Harding admitted that she only buckled the top part of the harness when she left the boy in a car seat to take a nap. The boy then slid down in the seat and was strangled by the harness.
The prosecutor also say Harding had been told before not to put the child in a car seat to take a nap.
“This is actually a tragic accident that may bring about some criminal liability which will be determined later,” said Glenn Shapiro, Harding's attorney. “Obviously all the parties involved are very upset about the death of young Chase. And she is going to go home, be with here family. She's mourning greatly.”
Prosecutors say the incident is more serious than just an accident.
“We charged it as a negligent act resulting in the death of a baby,” said Deputy County Attorney, Brenda Beadle. “So that's a child abuse. It's a class three felony.”
Her attorney says Harding had been providing child care for both Chase and his older brother for quite some time.
“All the parties involved are very close with each other,” Shapiro said. “They are close friends for years. They interact socially. They've been in each other's weddings. It's very hard for everyone involved for obvious reasons.”
Prosecutors say Harding was running a daycare out of her home that should have been licensed, but wasn't.
According to state law, any in-home day care with more than three kids, not belonging to the operator, must have a license issued by the state. Operating illegally without a child care license is a class IV misdemeanor, which carries a fine of $100 to $500.