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Oklahoma Day Care Operator Arrested after Infant Dies

25-Jul-2016

The owner of a home daycare in Noble, Oklahoma, has been arrested after a child was found unresponsive at her facility.

Last Tuesday, Noble police and paramedics responded to a call about an unresponsive 4-month-old baby at the home daycare owned and operated by Melissa Clark, 45. 

The infant was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where her injuries were found to be consistent with child abuse. The baby was placed on life support; sadly, she succumbed to her injuries three days later.

After the child was discovered unresponsive and taken to the hospital, DHS shuttered Clark's daycare pending investigation. On Friday, the same day of the infant's death, police arrested Clark on a complaint of child abuse. Court records show bond was set at $75,000 on a charge of child abuse or enabling child abuse.

Now that the baby has died, charges will likely be upgraded to first degree murder.

In Oklahoma, both child abuse and enabling child abuse are punished equally under the law. According to 21 O.S. § 843.5 anyone who "willfully or maliciously engage[s]" in child abuse or enabling child abuse is guilty of a felony punishable by a maximum penalty of life in prison.

However, if a child is killed by abuse or dies of injuries sustained in abuse, the perpetrator is charged with first degree murder.

Under 21 O.S. § 701.7, there are five specific circumstances which cause a homicide to be prosecuted as first degree murder rather than second degree murder or manslaughter. These conditions include the following:

  • A person causes the death of another person "unlawfully and with malice aforethought"; premeditated murder
  • A person kills someone, or another person dies, in the commission or attempted commission of a specified felony, including murder or attempted murder of another person,shooting or discharge of a firearm or crossbow with intent to kill, intentional discharge of a firearm or other deadly weapon into any dwelling or building, forcible rape, robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, escape from lawful custody, eluding an officer, first degree burglary, first degree arson, unlawful distributing or dispensing of controlled dangerous substances or synthetic controlled substances, trafficking in illegal drugs, or manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance
  • The death of a child results from abuse or "willful or malicious injuring, torturing, maiming or using of unreasonable force" against that child, or the permission of such abuse or force
  • A person solicits murder in the furtherance of specified drug crimes
  • A person intentionally causes the death of a law enforcement officer in the performance of his or her duties

The penalty for child abuse murder or enabling child abuse resulting in the death of a child is life in prison or life without parole. If the circumstances of the death are considered to be "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel," the prosecution may seek the death penalty for the defendant.



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