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Legal guardian pleads guilty to endangerment in child's death

Legal guardianship is not a matter to be entered into lightly. As we indicated in an earlier post, when a court appoints someone to the guardian role, the task isn't simply to provide general care, but to always act in the ward's best interest. Sometimes that doesn't happen, but the system doesn't act in time. The result can be horrible injury, or even death. A case out of Union County Superior Court highlights what we mean.

In this instance, a 33-year-old woman was sentenced to seven years in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree reckless manslaughter in the death of her 2-year-old foster son back in February 2010. When she was first arraigned in March of last year, she was facing charges of murder. She pleaded not guilty. News reports don't say why the charges were reduced, but it seems possible that it was due to what investigators learned as they looked deeper into the case.

According to authorities, the 2-year-old boy had been in the woman's care from infancy. She also had taken care of two other siblings of the boy, as well as her own three sons. Prosecutors alleged that the boy was beaten regularly over a six-month period, leading to his death. They claimed that the beatings came from the woman's natural children, aged 9, 10 and 12. But they never said who was responsible. They simply alleged that the woman knew about the abuse and didn't stop it.

The woman's own three boys now live with their father. None has been charged. The siblings of the victim have been placed in other foster homes.

Other documents filed in connection with the case indicate the woman was investigated five times by child welfare officials between 2000 and 2009. In one instance drug use was alleged and authorities said that was substantiated, but other claims were found to be without basis.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "Linden woman pleads guilty to reckless endangerment that led to 2-year-old's death," Julia Terruso, Oct. 1, 2011

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