Mom charged in adopted daughter’s death pleads no contest to bail violation

West Bay

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Lawyers representing a Warwick woman charged in the death of her adopted daughter returned to court Wednesday, however, their client was once again absent from the hearing.

Michele Rothgeb, 57, was arrested in January 2019 after 9-year-old Zahnae Rothgeb, who had cerebral palsy, was found unresponsive in a bathtub inside her Oakland Beach Avenue home.

Police said Zahnae had been left to play by herself in the tub for hours and was being cared for at the time by her 15-year-old brother, who has Asperger’s syndrome.

Rothgeb is charged with manslaughteras well as seven counts of child neglect ─ one for each of her adopted children.

Rothgeb’s attorneys and prosecutors were both present in court Wednesday, but Rothgeb was not in attendance.

She’s not on the run, however. After missing her court date last week, Rothgeb turned herself in for an alleged bail violation and has been in custody ever since, according to the R.I. Attorney General’s Office.

In court Wednesday, Rothgeb’s lawyers said she will plead no contest to the violation and remain in custody without bail.

Her lawyers also asked that a subpoena for records be ruled invalid, but the judge denied the request.

The judge ordered both sides to prepare sentencing recommendations by the next scheduled court date on Oct. 26.

It’s unclear at this time whether Rothgeb will be in attendance or not.

Zahnae’s death led to sweeping changes at the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

report released by DCYF’s oversight agency, the Office of the Child Advocate, found Rothgeb should never have been a licensed foster parent and concluded: “the actions or inactions of DCYF staff contributed to the death of this child.”

Since Zahnae’s death, the state has capped the number of children who can live in a foster home at five. Some homes still have up to eight children because they were grandfathered in, according to the DCYF. The agency said each of those homes has been reassessed since then, and they all have two parents and do not have the same number of children with special needs living under one roof.

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