VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The case of Marlene Rice is going to a grand jury after the death of a 4-month-old in her care.
The child died in August. Investigators said Rice was operating an unlicensed daycare.
Thursday wasn’t about proving Rice’s guilt or innocence. The Commonwealth had to prove probable cause of child abuse and neglect in her case. The prosecution felt that hinged on whether or not evidence existed that Rice willfully operated a day care that was unlicensed.
Rice sat stone-faced next to her attorney Richard Doummar in the Virginia Beach courtroom.
“She is extremely, extremely, sad about what occurred,” Doummar explained.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney laid the case for cause. An administrator for the state’s day care licensing board said they had talked to Rice in 2005. According to the administrator, back then, an official explained to Rice, she could not run a private day care without a license if she had more than five children in her care.
The standard changed in July to make four children the maximum number in a private non-licensed daycare.
Then, a Virginia Beach officer took the stand. The detective said he found 17 children in Rice’s home in August. While investigating the death of the four-month-old infant, he found nine total infants in Rice’s care.
The prosecution argued that proved Rice willfully engaged in an unlicensed day care. Therefore, there should be cause to go forward.
Rice’s attorney, Doummar, said not so fast.
“Whether she had one child there or 100 children, there would not have had any impact on the well-being of that child,” Doummar said.
Doummar argued that an autopsy supports his conclusion that no act by his client caused the death of the child. A coroner found no foul play or bruising on the infant, he said.
“That child supposedly from the autopsy died like that,” Doummar said.
The judge considered the evidence, and then ruled there was probable cause to take Rice’s case further.
Outside of court, Rice and her family refused to talk. Doummar readied for the next round in court.
“I don’t think it’s an appropriate interpretation of the case although I respect the judge’s decision,” he said.
Marlene Rice’s case will go to a grand jury on January 3, the final hurdle before trial. A trial is tentatively scheduled for February 28.