A Laurel woman was charged with second-degree murder yesterday in the November shaking death of a 15-month-old girl she had been caring for at her home day-care center.
Kathleen Ann Butcher, 36, of the 9400 block of Sewall Avenue, also was charged with manslaughter, child abuse and first- and second-degree assault, according to court documents filed yesterday. She was being held at the Howard County Detention Center on $1 million bond pending a bail review Monday in Howard County District Court.
Butcher cared for six children, all infants and toddlers, at her home, in addition to her two young children, according to Howard County police.
On Nov. 16, she called 911 to report that Alexa Shearer had stopped breathing, according to police. Howard County Fire and Rescue officers managed to restore the child's heartbeat. She was taken to the intensive care unit of Children's Hospital in the District.
The next day, she developed large bruises on the right side of her head and face. A CT scan showed "significant irreparable brain damage," according to court documents filed yesterday. She was pronounced brain dead the next day.
The District medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide, finding that the child died from "being shaken and trauma to the head, resulting from a non-accidental impact injury." They found injuries to her brain, spine, ribs and retinas and said that the injuries were so severe that they should have been noticeable quickly after being inflicted.
Butcher told investigators that Alexa appeared normal that day and had eaten two meals, played with the other children and "seemed happy," according to court documents. She said that around lunch time, the child "seemed tired," so she put her down for a nap. She said that 15 minutes later, she checked to see if "she was still breathing," a comment that made investigators suspicious, according to court documents filed yesterday.
The other children were removed from Butcher's care after Alexa's death, according to state Department of Human Resources officials. The department contacted the parents of each of those children yesterday to inform them of the arrest.
Since Butcher became a state licensed home day-care provider in 1996, her record has been unblemished by investigations or disciplinary actions, according to state day-care licensing records. She has no criminal record in Maryland and was approved as a home day-care provider after a rigorous routine investigation and training by the state Department of Human Resources.
"We are moving to immediately suspend her license," said Erlene Wilson, a spokeswoman for the department.