The former owner of Honey Bee Daycare in Kingsley, and her employee, have both been sentenced to probation after being charged with child abuse. Kristy Helmreich, who owned the small, home-run daycare, and Mary Zenner, who assisted her with the children there, will spend the next six months on probation.
But given the fact that both women were facing fourth degree child abuse charges, which in Michigan is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, six months of probation is surprisingly lenient. The reason, of course, is a plea deal, which both women, who are in fact sisters, agreed to in December.
In return for their no contest pleas, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney offered them the opportunity to avoid going to jail. Assuming, of course, that they follow the terms and conditions spelled out in their plea agreements.
According to Cooney, the negligence and lack of supervision in this case were certainly upsetting, but it was exactly that – negligence. Not abuse. Which is why the Prosecutor’s Office was willing to offer them a deal. “These were younger defendants with no criminal histories, and this was not intentional abuse by any means,” Cooney said, when explaining why his office had chosen to give the pair a chance to avoid criminal charges.
The case stemmed from an incident that took place in November of 2015. A semi-truck driver was traveling on a highway that he apparently drives every day, when he noticed a small child in the middle of the road. He used his truck to block traffic and save the boy, whom he says was terrified.
When he took the child back to the daycare and confronted the owner, Helmreich, she allegedly begged him not to report the incident, saying that she would lose her license. But the driver claimed that, as a father, he would want to know if it had been his child, and so he contacted authorities to report what had happened.
In addition to the Prosecutor’s understanding in the matter, the parents of the small boy who was found unattended on the highway in busy traffic, wrote a letter asking for leniency. They specifically said that they didn’t want to see either Helmreich or Zenner face criminal charges. Given the circumstances, this was very gracious of them.
Part of the plea deal required that both women agree that they wouldn’t apply for child care licenses from the state for a period of two years following their sentences. The Honey Bee Daycare has since closed its doors.