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Former daycare worker sentenced in abuse case

Ashley Garrity

HUDSON — Words weren't enough for Alexis McKinley to describe what happened to a little boy who suffered a broken leg at the hands of a daycare worker.

Though she tried.

"This case is terrible," said McKinley, an assistant St. Croix County district attorney. "It's infuriating. It's sad. It's really hard to find the words to describe what happened to the victim."

Instead, the prosecutor played a video of the Feb. 24, 2016, incident that led to a conviction against the suspect, 27-year-old Ashley Garrity.

If pictures are worth 1,000 words, McKinley said, "the video is worth 10,000 words."

The video, displayed Friday, Sept. 8, at Garrity's sentencing hearing, shows the Baldwin woman forcefully dropping a 14-month-old boy on the floor of Bear Buddies Educational Resources in Baldwin. The video shows other children in the room congregate toward their playmate as he writhes in apparent agony.

It would later be discovered the child sustained a leg fracture as a result of the incident and that other children at the daycare were handled by Garrity "like rag dolls," McKinley said.

The video made an impact on St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Michael Waterman, who went on to sentence Garrity. He said he was overcome with "a rage" that made him want to sentence Garrity to the maximum — more than three years in prison.

"Frankly, I was speechless," the judge told Garrity, saying it was "appalling, the way you handled those children."

But, the judge said, he was compelled by notes of compassion expressed by the child's family in sentencing Garrity to eight months in jail and three years on probation. Garrity pleaded no contest on June 22 to one count of felony reckless child abuse causing harm.

"I hope that after today this chapter of everyone's life is closed ... and everyone starts to heal," Waterman told the courtroom, filled with members of the victim's family, along with Garrity's.

Defense attorney Julie Weber called Garrity "probably the most remorseful client I've had in 20 years" as a lawyer. Weber said the level of childhood trauma her client experienced normally leads others to run afoul of the law. For Garrity, the child abuse conviction represented her only criminal history.

Garrity's actions on the day of the offense, Weber said, were more of a reflection of "self-hate" than anger toward anyone else.

During her time to speak to the court, Garrity choked back sobs and tears in reading an open letter to the victim's mother.

"Never in my worst nightmare would I think I would be responsible for so much earth-shattering pain," Garrity said. "I regret that day with every fiber of my being."

Garrity, who said she's felt the harsh looks of shame cast by community members in the wake of the incident, pleaded for the victim's mother to not assume all daycare workers behave the same way she did that February day.

Her statement followed a passionate reading by the boy's mother to Garrity, in which she described how the family moved from the area as a result of the jarring incident.

She sought one year in prison for Garrity, who she called "a monster."

Garrity attempted to shed that image in her statement to the mother.

"I am not that monster and I will spend the rest of my life making up for it," she said.

Probationary terms prohibit Garrity from working with children. Weber said that in spite of the fact that working with children had been Garrity's career goal, "it's not something that she'd ever consider going back to again."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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