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Judge accepts plea deal sparing day care operator of jail time

BISMARCK - A day care operator who was charged after a 5-year-old girl under her supervision was found unresponsive in a public swimming pool and died last summer will serve probation but no jail time under a plea agreement accepted Monday.

BISMARCK – A day care operator who was charged after a 5-year-old girl under her supervision was found unresponsive in a public swimming pool and died last summer will serve probation but no jail time under a plea agreement accepted Monday.

Former KidQuarters operator Heather Tudor pleaded guilty Monday to felony child neglect and a misdemeanor charge of operating a child care facility without a license, McHenry County District Court Clerk Lorraine Myers said.

A negligent homicide charge was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Tudor can’t be re-prosecuted for the crime.

“She’s sad with the events that gave way to these charges,” said Tudor’s attorney, Paul Probst of Minot, who reached the plea deal with State’s Attorney Cassey Breyer.

“She’s very remorseful, and again it’s an unfortunate circumstance, unfortunate scenario, and she feels bad for the little girl’s mother and her family,” Probst said.

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The charges alleged 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.

Judge Laurie Fontaine accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Tudor to one year and one day in prison on the felony charge and 30 days in jail on the misdemeanor charge, all of it suspended.

Tudor must serve three years of unsupervised probation, and if she successfully completes it, the felony charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor on her record, Probst said.

Fontaine also ordered Tudor to serve 300 hours of community service and pay $5,000 in restitution to the victim’s family for medical expenses. Tudor also can’t operate or work in a child care facility.

The pool incident also resulted in charges against a McHenry County social worker who handled the KidQuarters license and against five current or former Department of Human Services employees, alleging they impeded the investigation and allowed KidQuarters to operate unlicensed. Those cases are ongoing.

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