A former Sioux Falls day care provider will no longer care for children after she was sentenced Monday afternoon for misdemeanor child neglect.
Connie Edwards, 53, pleaded guilty to the charge in March and was sentenced Monday to ten days in the county jail. Her sentenced also bans her from working in a day care for the rest of her life.
Edwards was charged in 2011 after four-month-old Meredith Ulmer accidentally died at Edwards’ in-home day care.
The Minnehaha County Coroner said Ulmer accidentally choked in her sleep. When authorities responded to the home it was discovered Edwards had twice as many children in her care as allowed by city ordinance.
Edwards tearfully apologized to Ulmer's family inside the courtroom Monday.
"Meredith was loved by everyone until the day she passed. I loved day care," Edwards said.
Edwards had put Ulmer's crib in the upstairs master bathroom because the four-month-old was having trouble falling asleep. The crib was two stories above where Edwards left two unregistered teenage girls with 15 children while she took nine others to Wild Water West.
"They were up on a different level but we were always going up there, constantly going up there to let the kids go to the bathroom, constantly going up there," Edwards said.
The maximum number of children allowed at an in-home day care in Sioux Falls is twelve. Edwards had twice that in her care that day. Edwards' attorney argued Monday that it's impossible to connect the capacity of the day care with Ulmer's death.
After court Edwards' husband Dennis blamed prosecutors and detectives for going after his wife.
"A public outrage was created that villainized my wife, a Christian woman, who loved children," Edwards said.
Dennis Edwards accuses authorities of lying to the public because a defense expert believes Ulmer died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and because a detective misstated in an initial court filing that Edwards had 15 children under the age of two years old at the time of Ulmer's death when she really had 15 under the age of five years old.
"She ran her day care in shifts. What she had is she only had twelve children in the house and during the process she'd take another group of kids to Wild Water West," Edwards said.
Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan says the error in the initial court document was a typo and the coroner ruled Ulmer's death an accident. McGowan says authorities were not lying. He says the bottom line is Edwards had too many kids in her care three different times in 2011 and she was sentenced for it Monday.
2011 Story: Infant Death: Provider Had Previous Citations
"The facts remain undisputed. The defendant had 24 children in her care. She took nine of those children to another location. It's a fact that she had two unregistered day care workers watching the remaining 15 children at home," McGowan said.
It's why Edwards will spend ten days in the county jail and never work in a day care again.
Edwards will report to jail on June 1.