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Rhode Island woman gets 18 years in daughter’s death

December 22, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island woman whose adopted 9-year-old special needs daughter was found dead in a bathtub in the family’s squalid home in 2019 was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Wednesday.

A judge sentenced Michele Rothgeb, 58, to 15 years for the death of the girl and an additional three years related to neglect charges involving seven other special needs children she was caring for.

The Warwick woman pleaded no contest in August to manslaughter and multiple child cruelty and neglect charges.

Zha-Nae Rothgeb, who had cerebral palsy, was found in the home face-down in a bathtub she had been placed in up to eight hours earlier on Jan. 3, 2019, authorities said. Rothgeb told authorities she was sick and left the girl in the care of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome.

The case led to disciplinary action against several state Department of Children, Youth and Families workers and changes in agency policies, including limits on the number of adoptive or foster children who can live in the same household.

The state office of the Child Advocate issued a scathing report that found that “the actions or inactions of (Department of Children, Youth and Families) staff contributed to the death.”