One of the sadder local stories of the last two years has finally come to an end. Former Olathe daycare operator Jeanette Lawrence was sentenced to 41 months in prison in the death of 18-month-old Ava Patrick, who suffocated in April 2009 after getting her neck stuck between slats on a fence separating babies from toddlers.
In October, a Johnson County jury found Lawrence guilty of involuntary manslaughter, child
endangerment and operating a daycare with too many children. At a sentencing hearing on Friday, Judge Franklin Davis threw the book at Lawrence, slapping her with the maximum possible sentence and, as The Kansas City Star reported, chewed her out good. "If you had followed the state's rules, I'm confident that this little girl would be alive today," Davis said.
Prosecutors said Lawrence's home daycare operation was a total
disaster. The day Ava died, she was one of 14 children in the house
spread over two floors. Lawrence was licensed to care for six kids at a time. According to the Star, Ava was left alone for at least 20 minutes.
Compounding the tragedy was Lawrence's
callous move to publish
a book called Your Child's Daycare: Everything you
need to know from start to finish about choosing the right daycare for your child. The Star notes that Lawrence even dedicated the tome to Ava with her parents'
permission, a decision they suspect was made to sell copies. The book's reader reviews, while initially pretty good, have begun to drop as comments about her conviction and calling into question her expertise.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Brown, who prosecuted the case, says
the judge made the right call by giving her most time. "I think it's an appropriate sentence in
the case, considering her history in running her daycare and her actions
in this case," he told The Pitch. "Absent some sort of
intentional act, I can't imagine anyone doing a poorer job than she