Warwick mom charged in adopted daughter’s death facing new charges

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A Warwick mother charged with manslaughter in the death of her adopted 9-year-old daughter is now facing additional neglect charges.

Michele Rothgeb, 56, who is already charged with one count of child neglect, is now facing seven additional counts — one for each of her other adopted children — and one count of animal neglect.

Rothgeb was arrested back in January 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 by her 15-year-old brother, who has Asperger’s syndrome.

Rothgeb was caring for eight foster or adopted children, all with special needs, at the time of Zahnae’s death.

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

A 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 Zhanae’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 January, and they all have two parents and do not have the same number of children with special needs living under one roof.

Rothgeb pleaded not guilty to the initial two charges back in June.

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