Crime

State College woman convicted of injuring infant at day care center

A State College woman was convicted Friday of injuring an infant under her supervision in a day care center she ran out of her home.

After a four-day jury trial, Jalene McClure, 40, was found guilty of one count of aggravated assault, a felony, and two counts of simple assault, a misdemeanor, for harming a 5-month-old girl four years ago.

McClure also was convicted of two counts of endangering the welfare of children and one count of recklessly endangering another person. The jury deliberated for about five hours before giving its verdict to Centre County Judge Bradley P. Lunsford, according to a news release from the Centre County District Attorney’s Office.

According to the release, the events of Aug. 18, 2010, and afterward unfolded as follows:

In the morning, the victim was taken by her mother to McClure’s house, where eight to 10 children, including at least three infants, were being taken care of during the day.

Arriving after work, the mother noticed her daughter already strapped into her car seat, looking pale, and asked what was wrong. McClure replied that the baby was sick, and that she had been fussy all day, vomiting twice.

McClure had not called the mother despite the day care’s policy for parents to pick up ill children. She told the concerned mother “to stop acting like a first-time mom.”

Soon after leaving McClure’s home, the girl vomited again. Her mother pulled off the road and noticed her daughter was pale, unresponsive and slipping in and out of consciousness. The woman drove to a local emergency room, meeting her husband there.

Upon removing their daughter from the car seat, the couple noticed a large bump on the left side of the baby’s head. A doctor concluded the girl had sustained life-threatening injuries and asked what had happened. When contacted, McClure said nothing had occurred during the day.

The girl was flown to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Doctors determined that she had suffered a serious head trauma consisting of a skull fracture, a subdural hematoma, brain cell damage and severe retinal hemorrhaging. She recovered but may face developmental problems.

While traveling to Danville, the girl’s parents again spoke with McClure, who repeated her assertion about the day.

From CT and MRI scans, doctors placed the time of the injury, concluding it had taken place while the girl was in McClure’s custody. Police and Centre County Children and Youth Services that night questioned McClure, who stuck to her story.

Five days later, McClure relented, telling police she had tried to put the girl, who had become fussy, in her car seat for a nap, only to trip on toys. While falling with the baby, McClure said, she caught herself halfway down, but not before the girl hit her head on the car seat and carpeted floor.

Child abuse experts called by the prosecution said the girl’s injuries were not consistent with McClure’s account, and that they reflected child abuse.

After the trial, bail was increased to $100,000. McClure’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 31.

“We are pleased that the jury was able to rely on common sense and see through the defendant’s charade,” Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said in a statement. “Infants have no voice, but fortunately the highly skilled doctors who treated this baby were able to read her injuries and speak the truth for her.”

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