Nearly a year after a 3-month-old baby was found dead in the home of her North Canton babysitter, the Stark County Prosecutor's Office filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the woman entrusted with her care.
Mary Ellen Ferster, 51, was charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the September 2016 death of Kensington Grace Millard.
On Wednesday the baby’s family learned about the indictment that was filed on July 21, 2017. Carla Anderson, Kensington’s grandmother, told News 5 that her family feared that the day would never come.
“I thought that it was going to get swept under the rug,” Anderson said. “The whole thing was devastating.”
According to police records, investigators were called to the house on September 9 to find the child dead in her pack and play crib in the basement of Ferster’s home.
Stark County Sheriff’s Office records indicate that Ferster put the child down for a nap that afternoon around 1:30 p.m. At 4:50 p.m, she went to check on the baby. Kensington wasn’t breathing.
A Stark County Coroner’s report did not discover any injuries but ruled the cause of death “asphyxia due to mechanical obstruction of airway by a pacifier strap and prone positioning.” The death was ruled accidental.
“She was a healthy baby,” Anderson said. “The last time I held her was in the back of the coroner’s SUV.”
According to a statement to police, Ferster admitted to placing the baby on her stomach when laying her down in the crib.
"How do I ever live through this?" Ferster said, according to a police report.
Anderson said she became even more upset once she learned the circumstances surrounding Kensington’s death. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, there were seven children in the home at the time of Kensington’s death.
Ferster should have been licensed, but she wasn’t.
“In this case, our child care staff opened an investigation in September and attempted to inspect the home on four occasions, but no one answered the door. At the final attempt, the home appeared to be abandoned,” a ODJFS spokesperson told News 5. “Additionally, since the case was being investigated by local law enforcement, ODJFS closed the case."
The spokesperson went on to say that the case was recently reopened after receiving a report that the provider might be living in the home and caring for children.
Anderson said her family was shocked to learn that charges had finally been filed.
“I was losing faith this last year that anything would be done,” Anderson said. “We just kept hitting brick walls.”
Now she says her family is pushing to clarify and enhance Ohio’s laws for caregivers. She also wants to warn other families about asking the right questions of their potential babysitters.
“I want people to be aware that you have to know who’s watching your child,” she said.
Ferster’s arraignment is set for August 8.