A Springfield woman who provides day care in her home has been charged with neglect in the death last month of a 10-month-old girl for whom she was baby-sitting, Fairfax County police said yesterday.
Martha E. Guba, 58, was arrested on felony charges Friday after an autopsy revealed that Ashley Snead died from an overdose of imipramine, a drug used to treat depression and bed-wetting, police said. They said Guba had waited several hours after noticing Ashley was lethargic before calling for help.
"We're devastated," Ashley's father, Ronald Snead, said at his Springfield home yesterday. "How would you feel? You leave a perfectly healthy baby at someone's house . . . and all of a sudden your baby's dead. How could that happen?"
Guba, reached by telephone at her home at 6145 Bardu Ave., said only that the charge against her was "absolutely not warranted."
Police charged Guba with "willful and knowing neglect," but did not say that she administered the drug. Instead, they said the infant ingested it while in her care.
Police said Guba did not inform rescue workers about the presence of the drug, which carries the brand name Tofranil.
In children 6 to 12, the drug is used to help control bed-wetting, and in adults it is used to treat depression.
"It is not recommended for children of less than 6 years," said Cathy Kernen, manager of communications for Ciba-Geigy Corp., which manufactures the drug. "It should not have been given" to a 10-month-old baby, she said.
Ashley's father, a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel and systems performance officer in the Army, said that the drug "was not ours" and that his daughter had ingested "a sizable amount." Beyond that, Snead declined to speculate about what happened for fear of jeopardizing the police investigation.
All he really knows, he said, is that on July 28 he and his wife Jane were informed by telephone that their only child had stopped breathing. He said that when he arrived at Fairfax Hospital, Ashley was dead.
Ronald Snead said that about eight months ago, he and his wife had selected Guba from a list of Fairfax County residents who provide day care in their homes.
The Washington area has a shortage of infant care, and what is available often is expensive. With few slots at child care centers for children under 2, most infants needing care go to the homes of women known as family day care providers.
Guba's name is on the county's list of family day care providers, kept by the Office for Children.
She is listed as caring for infants through 12-year-olds and accepting children with special needs.
Judith Rosen, director of the Office for Children, said she believed Guba had been on the list since about June 1986.
She stressed that the list is strictly a compilation of resources that is made available to the community and does not carry any endorsement from the county.
Guba was released from the Fairfax County Jail yesterday on $2,500 bond.
Ashley was buried July 31 in her white christening gown, along with some of her teddy bears, her father said.
At the Sneads' town house yesterday, reminders of Ashley were everywhere.
Her pink rocking horse was still in her room, and there were empty milk bottles in the kitchen.
The blue diaper bag sat untouched in the living room next to the coffee table.
A week after Ashley died, Jane Snead, 37, who works at Dominion Federal Savings & Loan Association's corporate headquarters at Tysons Corner, began experiencing sharp pains, and doctors were summoned.
"They thought she was holding in all this pain," said Oneita Snead, Ashley's grandmother, but they discovered she had a tubal pregnancy and had lost another child.
"We're very bitter," Ronald Snead said yesterday, adding quietly: "We had a healthy little daughter, and we don't know if we can have any more children or not."
Staff writer Sandra Evans contributed to this report.