Brenda Nesselroad-Slaby can’t cope with the horrifying realization that her 2-year-old daughter died after being left in a car amid searing heat for eight hours one day last week, her lawyer said Friday.
“She’s still in shock,” defense lawyer R. Scott Croswell III said. “It’s beyond anything that she could have ever contemplated in her entire life. She’s not equipped to deal with this – no one is. She is distraught.”
Also wracked with grief is her husband, Gary Slaby, Croswell said. Cecilia was buried in an undisclosed location Tuesday.
Nesselroad-Slaby, 40, forgot she left the sleeping girl strapped in a child seat of a sport utility vehicle at Glen Este Middle School, where she is the assistant principal, Croswell said.
Nesselroad-Slaby, a resident of Symmes Township, became distracted from her normal routine of dropping Cecilia off at a baby-sitter’s house because she stopped to buy doughnuts for a faculty meeting Aug. 23, Croswell said.
“There is not the first hint that she intended to leave the child in that automobile,” Croswell said. “I know she’s a good mother.”
Ohio law is clear that Nesselroad-Slaby shouldn’t be charged in the death of Cecilia, Croswell said.
“Every member of the public that’s screaming for blood here would be begging for mercy if it happened to them or a loved one,” Croswell said. “It’s horrific. It’s awful what happened. It is a terrible tragedy. But the fact it’s a terrible tragedy doesn’t equal a serious crime.”
Detectives should wrap up their investigation of the circumstances of Cecilia’s death Monday, Lt. Scott Gaviglia of the Union Township Police Department said. The report will then be turned over to the prosecutor’s office.
Clermont County Prosecutor Don White is expected to announce Tuesday whether he will seek charges against Nesselroad-Slaby. The grand jury that would have to indict her on any felony charge meets Wednesday.
In general, such a case might result in a charge of child endangering, White said. A conviction for felony child endangering could result in up to eight years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
One essential element of child endangering is “a culpable mental state of recklessness,” the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.
“The act which caused this unfortunate situation is (one) of forgetting the child was in the car,” Croswell said. “If you forget something, it is not an intentional or reckless act in law – and the courts have consistently ruled that way.”
White has said he’s certain it was an accident.
People “calling for murder charges or manslaughter charges or child-endangering charges simply don’t understand the facts or the law,” Croswell said. They are “basically saying if there is a death, it equals a crime. The case law is clear that’s not true.”
Early in the investigation, police viewed videos from security cameras at the school to determine when Nesselroad-Slaby arrived. The video shows she unloaded doughnuts from the SUV’s cargo area, which was accessed by a hatchback, officials said.
Cecilia was strapped into a child seat behind the driver’s seat, police said. Another child seat took up the other spot in the rear passenger compartment of the 1998 Mercedes-Benz, which had been in a wreck before Gary Slaby bought it and repaired it himself.
Nesselroad-Slaby has a 5-year-old daughter in preschool.
A teacher who parked next to Nesselroad-Slaby’s car about 3 p.m. Aug. 23 noticed Cecilia.
Nesselroad-Slaby is on paid leave from the job she has held since 2001. The school at 4342 Glen Este-Withamsville Road has received telephone calls about her that were considered veiled threats.
“All these people who are screaming for her head ought to try putting themselves in her place,” Croswell said. “She merely became distracted and forgot the child was in the car.”
Usually, “she dropped the child off (at 7 a.m.) before she went to school,” Croswell said. “She started to go to the baby-sitter but realized at 6:30 a.m. that she would be a half-hour early.”
Nesselroad-Slaby “turned around and went to pick up the doughnuts and focused on her school projects and became distracted and forgot she had not yet dropped the child off,” Croswell said.
The doughnuts were for co-workers, who met from 7:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to plan for the Aug. 27 opening of school.
A receipt from the Busken Bakery at 956 Old Ohio 74 in Union Township, a mile from the school, shows Nesselroad-Slaby paid $59.22 for eight dozen doughnuts at 6:54 a.m., officials said.
Once at school, Nesselroad-Slaby didn’t see Cecilia because she removed the doughnuts via the hatchback, Croswell said.
The temperature averaged 98 degrees in that part of Union Township on Aug. 23. It could have reached 149 degrees in the car, which had its windows up. The girl died of heat-related causes.
Cecilia didn’t cry out to alert her mother when Nesselroad-Slaby went into the school, Croswell said.
“The child was asleep when she left home,” Croswell said. “They would take the child to (the baby-sitter) while she was still sleeping.”
Thank you BARRETT J. BRUNSMAN and the Cincinnati ENQUIRER
Distraught…that is better off then her daughter is, she is dead and died a horrible death. Her little body was covered in blisters, she was literally cooked to death.
I find it very hard to find sympathy or empathy for this mother. I am just glad that it is not me as I would not be able to live with my self. Knowing what I had allowed to happen.
Creating sympathy for his client [the lawyer] doesn’t work for me…I only have sympathy for the child that suffocated and and died, as she was boiled alive from the heat.
Children should be protected…I give a thumbs down on this one, Baby Boomers…what is your opinion???
~The Baby Boomer Queen~