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Judge keeps Butcher in jail


North Laurel day care provider Kathleen A. Butcher is too much of a flight risk to be released from jail while she awaits sentencing on a conviction stemming from charges that she killed a baby in her care, a Howard County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday.

Butcher's lawyers had hoped to convince Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. that the 37-year-old mother of four, who is pregnant, requires better medical care than the Howard County Detention Center can give and that she needs to spend time with her bedridden father, who is dying of colon cancer.

Defense lawyer Ralph Lotkin asked Kane to place Butcher on electronic surveillance, and to place a lien on her home if he was worried that she wouldn't show up for her July 6 sentencing.

But Kane said the jail is providing Butcher, who is due to deliver in September, with the right kind of care -- including monthly visits with her personal obstetrician at that doctor's office -- and that the criminal justice system can work out a way for Butcher to visit her father.

And while he doesn't believe she is a threat to society, the fact that she is facing prison time makes her a flight risk, he said. State sentencing guidelines call for five to 15 years in prison, according to a prosecutor.

Yesterday's hearing was Butcher's first since a Howard County jury convicted her of manslaughter, child abuse and assault in the death of 15-month-old Alexa Shearer, a child she was caring for at the time.

Kane revoked Butcher's bond after the verdict was read March 8.

Butcher was caring for eight children in her Sewall Avenue home Nov. 16, 1999, when Alexa went into cardiac arrest around lunchtime.

A medical examiner determined that the girl died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Like the trial, yesterday's hearing featured a packed courtroom.

Behind the defense table, Butcher's family, friends and neighbors filled in several rows, while the Shearer family and their friends and supporters squeezed onto the benches behind the prosecution table.

After the long hearing, which featured testimony from a jail nurse, an angry Victoria Shearer, Alexa's mother, said Butcher "purposely" became pregnant despite facing a murder and manslaughter trial. The jury deadlocked on the murder charge.

"Then she tries to use that to get sympathy to get out of jail," she said.

Despite her conviction, Butcher wants to be allowed to stay with her young children and keeps filing motions with the court, Shearer said.

"She can't rub enough salt in the wound," she said, her voice shaking.

Butcher has continued to assert that she is innocent, and her lawyers have filed a motion for a new trial.

Prosecutors also said that a private investigator has been hired by the defense, noting that a Shearer family member had been contacted.

The lawyers would not elaborate on the focus of the investigation.

Ralph Lotkin, one of Butcher's lawyers, said his client was "clearly upset" and disappointed by the judge's decision.

"But he's the judge, and that's our system," he said.

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