Lehigh Valley

Day care owner spared prison sentence in baby's death

NORTHAMPTON, Pa. - Defense attorneys are crediting a mother's compassion with keeping a former day care owner out of prison.

A sentencing hearing was held Friday in Northampton County for the woman who pleaded guilty in connection with the death of an infant in her care.

Baby McKenna died on her very first day at an in-home day care in Lehigh Township.

Friday, the baby's mother asked the judge to spare the day care owner prison time saying her baby's death will affect the the business owner for the rest of her life, and that's enough.

"I think hearing from the child's mother today was also a very emotional moment," says Gavin Holihan, the attorney for Sharon Ballek.

Lots of tears today inside a Northampton County courtroom. The mother of McKenna Rose Felmly made a plea to the judge to spare the woman responsible for her daughter's death.

"She's very emotional. She has been since the day incident happened in 2016. She had a heart attack very next day," says Holihan.

Baby McKenna died when she was 3-months-old, on her first day at Ballek's in-home day care last April. Investigators say McKenna was left unsupervised on her stomach, which is considered unsafe, in a crib in a back bedroom without a baby monitor.

Ballek had run the day care for more than 30 years but it was shut down four days after McKenna's death.

"Miss Kromer was really a remarkable person. The strength that she has and the ability to reflect on the situation and speak kindly to share in the way that she did really says something special about Miss Kromer," says Holihan.

In July, Ballek pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

"She had a very real risk of a jail sentence and I think the family of the victim had a great impact on the judge," says Holihan.

The judge fined Ballek and ordered her to serve seven years of probation but it was the next part of the sentence that nearly brought Ballek to tears.

"A very emotional part of the sentencing for my client was the ruling by the judge that Miss Ballek would have no unsupervised contact with any child including her grandchildren," says Holihan.

Ballek only had a few words to say in court. She told the family of baby McKenna that she was sorry and that she knows there's nothing she can do to take away their pain.

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