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Mother whose son drowned gets year of house arrest


A Circuit Court judge sentenced a Pioneer City woman to one year's house arrest yesterday in the drowning death of her infant son, even though the prosecutor who argued the case recommended community service.

Donna Davidson, 26, was found guilty last month of reckless endangerment for leaving her 18-month-old son, Marcus Price, unattended in a bathtub March 23, 1994. The jury acquitted Ms. Davidson on a second charge -- involuntary manslaughter -- in a verdict that Assistant Public Defender Carroll McCabe and Assistant State's Attorney Nancy Harford called a compromise.

Yesterday, Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. sentenced Ms. Davidson, 26, to three years with all but one suspended.

In her statement before Judge Thieme handed down his sentence, Ms. Harford urged him not to forget the victim.

"What the court must keep in mind is that Marcus Price died and that he died because of the defendant's gross negligence," Ms. Harford said. She recommended that Judge Thieme give Ms. Davidson, who lives in the 1700 block of Richfield Drive with her two daughters, community service so that "something positive comes out of this."

Ms. McCabe agreed with Ms. Harford that her client should not go to jail, but said even community service would pose a hardship.

"Certainly there is no justice served by incarceration," Ms. McCabe said. "I understand the state's request for community service but the defendant has no car, two children and works full time. She's trying to keep this family together after this horrible tragedy."

In a voice barely above a whisper, Ms. Davidson told Judge Thieme, "I learned from my mistake."

Ms. Davidson will have to perform 96 hours of community service, and her house arrest will begin at 6 p.m. June 16.

Under conditions of the house arrest, Ms. Davidson will be allowed to go to work, take her daughters to appointments and complete her community service.

Outside the courtroom, the lawyers expressed differing opinions about the sentence.

"I think the sentence was very appropriate," Ms. Harford said. "It was a difficult sentencing for the judge because it was a mother who lost her child. But a message needs to be sent, and [Ms. Davidson] does need to know it was a criminal act. It's a crime as much as a tragedy."

Ms. McCabe said she was surprised at the verdict.

"The pain and anguish that she felt was so obvious to me I thought it was obvious to anyone who watched the trial," Ms. McCabe said. "It seemed to me she'd been punished enough for what happened."

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