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Deal reached for mother in Saunders case

A woman charged with child abuse after her baby was found dead with cocaine and methamphetamine in his system in 2011 accepted a plea deal Tuesday that allows her to avoid jail time.

Theresa Saunders pleaded guilty to child abuse, a Class C Felony, and was sentenced to three years in jail, all of which were suspended. She’s required to register as an offender against children and will be under supervised probation. She will be allowed contact with her son, who is in custody in her home state of Nevada, where she now lives.

Her now ex-husband Andrue Saunders is a co-defendant in the case, but has yet to reach a plea deal with prosecutors.

The charges arose after the parents kept the child in their Dickinson home while drugs were being consumed and dealt there. The boy was 7 months old when he died on Oct. 5, 2011.

Andrue Saunders has a five-day trial scheduled to start March 24 and jury preparations are underway, but a plea deal is close, Assistant Stark County State’s Attorney Rhonda Ehlis said.

“I think we’re probably close to settling this one as well,” she told Southwest Judicial District Judge Zane Anderson.

Ehlis, Andrue Saunders and his public defender Kevin McCabe have until close of business Friday to turn a plea agreement into the court, Anderson said.

Were he to go to trial, Theresa Saunders would testify against him, as required by her plea agreement.