A Bristow area woman whose toddler son died in June after he was left in the family’s minivan for about seven hours pleaded guilty on Monday to two misdemeanor child neglect charges.
Karen Murphy, 40, a veterinarian, was ordered to serve six years probation and to perform 400 hours of community service at an animal shelter. Under an agreement with prosecutors, a felony murder charge was dropped.
Murphy’s son Ryan was just shy of his third birthday when he was left strapped in a carseat while Murphy went to work the morning of June 17. She found him that afternoon after her husband went to pick the toddler up from day care and called to say he was not there.
“To subject her to a penitentiary would not serve justice in this case,” Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said Monday.
During a brief hearing in Prince William Circuit Court, Murphy answered a judge’s questions but did not speak about her son. She cried and shook. A judge sentenced her to 2 years in jail, but suspended that sentence.
“She is just devastated by this, as any family or any mother would be,” said Murphy’s attorney, Edward B. MacMahon Jr. He said Murphy planned to become involved with the group Kids and Cars, a non-profit organization that works to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around vehicles.
Prosecutors have always said they believed that Ryan was left in the car accidentally.
At the time Murphy was charged, Ebert said he decided to pursue a criminal case, in part because he said she had forgotten her son once before. He said that in January 2011 Murphy left Ryan in the van after she parked outside her veterinary office, Caring Hands Animal Hospital. In that instance, he said, day-care employees called her to ask whether Ryan would be coming, and she took him from the vehicle after less than a half-hour.