Oregon daycare provider accepts guilty plea

Mark Ignatowski

A 36-year-old Oregon daycare provider who had been facing felony child abuse charges plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge last month.

Crystal L. Zuniga faced up to six years in prison after a 1-year-old boy under her supervision at her private daycare facility suffered a fracture to his left leg.

Zuniga pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of neglecting a child. She’ll receive deferred prosecution in the case, according to her attorney Hal Harlowe.

Harlowe said Zuniga pleaded guilty to a charge of negligence rather than intentional misconduct and was placed in the court’s first offender program. If she successfully completes the course, the misdemeanor charge will be dropped within the next six months to a year-and-a-half, Harlowe told the Observer.

According to a criminal complaint, the parents of the 1-year-old boy told Oregon police that their son was crying “uncontrollably” when they picked him up from the 280 Brook St. private daycare on March 27, 2012.

Later that night, the parents took the boy to the hospital, where doctors discovered a “spiral fracture” in his left femur typically caused by “significant twisting or a significant fall,” the complaint said.

A pediatric physician told authorities that he believed the fracture was non-accidental. Zuniga told an Oregon detective that she had left the child on a couch while she took another child to a separate room for a nap. When she returned, she said, the boy was on the floor crying, the complaint said.

According to the Dane County District Attorney’s office, the deferred prosecution program works by offering defendants an opportunity to complete assessments and training in exchange for their sentence being dropped. Defendants must pay a monthly fee to be in the program and undergo treatment and training and are monitored by the district attorney’s office.

 - Mark Ignatowski

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