Va. Beach woman pleads guilty to charges of running unlicensed daycare

Marlene Gail Rice (Photo: Virginia Beach Police)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach woman has pleaded guilty to several counts of running an unlicensed daycare.

Marlene Rice was charged last August following the death of a 4-month-old girl in her care. Police were called to the home last August. When they got there, they found 17 children — many of them swimming in the backyard pool without supervision.

A grand jury later indicted Rice on charges of not having a license.

Rice, 49, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 11 total counts of operating an unlicensed daycare, according to the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. She could be facing up to 12 months for each charge.

Rice has never spoken publicly about the day the 4-month-old died at her home.

“It has been a nightmare for Mrs. Rice,” her attorney Richard Doummar said. “She feels horrible this happened on her watch.”

Rice was initially charged with child abuse and neglect. It was a charge her attorney thought wouldn’t stand up in court when the autopsy was released.

“She could have had 50 kids in that house and the cause of that poor child’s death was apparently an unexplained infant death: SIDS,” Doummar added. “That could not have been prevented.”

The Commonwealth said Tuesday it has insufficient evidence to connect Rice to the child’s death. But there was no question that she should have had the proper licensing in caring for the children.

“Which is why we took responsibility for those charges and that’s all there is,” Doummar said.  “She feels terrible for the family and has been severely affected by it.”

Prosecutors say Rice was investigated in 2005 by social services, when she was told she needed a license. That’s a claim her attorney says didn’t happen.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 21, 2017.