BELFAST, Maine — The mother of the Frankfort baby mauled to death by the family Rottweiler in April 2011 will spend only three months in jail for the misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
Katrina Mitchell, 31, had little to say to the nearly-empty courtroom Wednesday afternoon as Justice Robert Murray issued the sentence of one year in jail with all but three months suspended and one year of probation. Late last year, she pleaded no contest to the class E charge.
Mitchell had been passed out drunk on the couch at the time that the dog killed 7-month-old Annabelle, according to the arrest affidavit filed by police three months after the incident. Her nearly 3-year-old son, Jett, also was home at the time of the death.
“This has been a very frustrating case,” Waldo County Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker said after the sentencing in superior court. “We always wanted a more serious charge than endangering the welfare of a child.”
He said that he hopes a lawmaker will look into the possibility of amending the laws to allow for a charge of felony endangerment of a child, and added that if the case had gone to trial, it would have been difficult for prosecutors to prove the timeline of her drinking the day that Annabelle was killed. Tests done afterward showed that Mitchell’s blood alcohol level was about .30 percent, almost four times the legal driving limit in Maine. She also tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
At the time of the mauling, Mitchell and her husband, Johnny Mitchell, had agreed that she was not going to drink alcohol unless he was present, according to the affidavit. She told police that she had only consumed a 40-ounce beer that day and did not pass out, but was exhausted and had taken a nap with her baby on the other end of the couch.
A couple of hours later, she woke up and found Annabelle lying dead on the floor with claw marks on her body, according to the affidavit. Defense attorney Aaron Fethke had written in documents submitted to the court that his client began drinking more heavily after waking up to find her baby dead. Police said that the dog’s mauling of the baby while in the same room as Mitchell likely lasted for some time, and that Annabelle would have been capable of crying or screaming due to pain.
“When did she consume alcohol? That was the key question in the case,” Walker said. “I would like to see a law that says if you are negligent in the care of children, resulting in serious bodily injury or death, it would be a felony misdemeanor.”
Mitchell’s husband and other family members were conspicuously absent from the courtroom Wednesday and no one but her attorney spoke on her behalf.
“My client’s glad it’s over, and I think it’s good for the community that it’s over, too,” Fethke said, adding that she declined the judge’s invitation to address the court for a reason. “It’s hard for her to talk about it.”
Mitchell, a small, slight woman, wore a jumpsuit from Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. Her post-conviction bail had been revoked last month after she got into further trouble with the law in Penobscot County, Walker told the court. Mitchell was arrested on separate occasions in December on charges of criminal operating under the influence, burglary of a motor vehicle, and theft of a soda and some cigarettes.
Prior to that arrest, Mitchell and Fethke had intended to argue for a shorter sentence, but that changed, Walker said.
“Miss Mitchell and Mr. Fethke are not going to argue today for a lower sentence,” he said.
Murray said that her probation conditions include not using or possessing alcohol or illegal drugs, psychological counseling and random searches of her residence, vehicles and property.