Woman is charged with neglecting baby 3-month-old was found alone in house

November 13, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

An Ellicott City woman who volunteers as president of a church school parents' association faces child-neglect charges after police allegedly found her at a nursery school while her 3-month-old infant slept unattended at home.

Howard County police said they arrested Beth Bernhart Webb, 36, of the 8300 block of Kings Heights Road, Tuesday after the local Child Protective Services office received an anonymous tip that the infant had been left alone.

When two officers went to the house shortly after 10:15 a.m., they got no response when they knocked on the door.

One officer remained at the house while the other went to St. John's Parish Day School, about 2 1/2 miles away on Frederick Road, where Child Protective Services had been told the mother would be.

Police said the officer found Ms. Webb at the school, where she volunteers as the president of its Parents' Association, and escorted her home.

Police said Ms. Webb let them into the house, where they found the infant in an upstairs bedroom, asleep in a crib.

"Her story was that a neighbor was checking on the child from time to time and the neighbor had a baby monitor, but when the officers checked the baby monitor, it was turned off," said Cpl. Kevin Costello, police spokesman.

"Officers checked on the adjacent [homes] on each side, and nobody was there, so we have no reason to believe that anybody was checking in on the child from time to time," he said.

Ms. Webb was charged with leaving a child unattended and was released on her own recognizance on the condition that she be supervised by the Department of Social Services. The maximum penalty for the offense is a $500 fine, 30 days in jail or both.

Ms. Webb and the supervisor of the day school declined to comment on the case.

The child was not removed from the home, police said, apparently because the infant's father, David Webb, was able to care for the baby.

Linda Zumbrun, assistant director for services for the county Department of Social Services, said she could not comment on Ms. Webb's case specifically. She did say that children generally are left in their homes when Social Services workers believe there will be no recurrence of the neglect.

"It could be that after we talked with folks, we felt confident that the behavior would not be repeated or that there was some kind of safety plan in effect . . . to see that the child was provided for," Ms. Zumbrun said.

County police have received about 60 reports this year of child neglect, which includes leaving children unattended or any other potentially harmful failure to care for a child.

The state's unattended-child law says that a dwelling or vehicle that contains a child under 8 years old must remain within the sight of the child's parent or guardian unless a "reliable person" at least 13 years old remains with the child.

Asked whether that could mean leaving a child in the care of someone in a neighboring house, Ms. Zumbrun said, "Not by my reading of it."

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