A Fairfax County juvenile judge agreed yesterday to allow a babysitter charged with neglect in the death of a 10-month-old girl to temporarily stay with her daughter in Kansas after the woman's attorney said she was being harassed.
Defense attorney Thomas J. Morris, elaborating in an interview after the hearing, said a doll with a smashed head was left on Martha E. Guba's doorstep, another doll was found hanging from a tree in her yard and anonymous phone callers were asking her, "Is this the baby killer?"
"Mrs. Guba needs some time away from this tragedy," Morris told Judge Michael J. Valentine during the brief hearing yesterday at Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Morris said his client was experiencing "serious and painful emotional upheaval" since the baby's death while in her care.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond Brownelle argued that Guba, who is free on $2,500 bond, should not be allowed to leave Virginia because of prior convictions, including one in 1968 for neglecting her two children. The others, which date back to 1944, are minor.
Morris countered that Guba had abandoned her teen-aged children at the time because her husband was an alcoholic. He said she pleaded guilty to the charges, or "took a fall," so she could be reunited with them.
Pointing to Guba's daughter and son-in-law in the tiny courtroom, Morris implored Judge Valentine to let his client stay with them until her next court hearing. Valentine granted the motion and agreed to postponed the preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for yesterday.
Guba was arrested by Fairfax police this month on a felony charge of "willful and knowing neglect" after an autopsy revealed that Ashley Snead, one of the children she cared for in her Springfield home, died from an overdose of imipramine, a drug used to treat depression in adults and bed-wetting in children over the age of 6.
Police did not say Guba administered the drug, but they maintain she waited several hours after noticing Ashley was lethargic before calling for help. They also said she did not inform rescue workers about the presence of the drug.
Last week, police went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to have Guba's bond revoked, citing an arrest record in several states dating from 1944 to 1976. The judge denied the request to revoke the bond, saying the charges, which included vagrancy and disorderly conduct, were too old.
Guba, who provided day care services in her home, was on a county list of day care providers, kept by the Office for Children. To be placed on the list, individuals must be screened by the Protective Services Registry of Virginia's Department of Social Services but state law does not require a criminal background check.
The District requires that providers be licensed and have a home inspection, physical exam and written references. Maryland requires registration, involving a home inspection, physical exam, references and a criminal record check.Staff writer Lynda Richardson contributed to this report.