A former Vermont daycare provider was arrested Monday on suspicion of manslaughter and child cruelty charges in the death of a 6-month-old girl she was caring for in her Rutland home in January.
The arrest of Stacey Vaillancourt, 53, came after the final autopsy report on the body of Harper Briar, who was found unresponsive Jan. 24, determined the girl had high concentrations of diphenhydramine in her body, Vermont State Police said. The drug is the active sedating ingredient in over-the-counter antihistamines, police said. The autopsy report noted that diphenhydramine is not to be used on infants except if a doctor orders it. There was no such order for the infant, Vermont State Police said.
“The state is alleging that the defendant sedated an otherwise beautiful, happy, healthy 6-month-old to the point where that baby could not lift her head and died,” said Rutland County State’s Attorney Rosemary Kennedy. “From the state’s perspective that is about as serious a charge that we see in Vermont.”
Vaillancourt’s lawyer entered not guilty pleas as about 40 relatives and supporters of the baby’s family sat in the courtroom wearing pink “Justice for Harper Rose” T-shirts.
According to a police affidavit, the infant was found unresponsive on the third day that Vaillancourt had been caring for her. Vaillancourt’s son told police that he and his fiance had become sick the night before and could not help her with the children that day, according to the affidavit.
A phone message was left with Vaillancourt’s lawyer after hours seeking comment.
Her lawyer Robert McClallen told the judge she has ties to the community, including family, owns a home with her mother, ran a daycare for 25 years, has a different job now and had recently undergone bankruptcy proceedings. The state had sought $50,000 bail and a condition that she not have contact with children under the age of 5. The judge set bail at $25,000 in the form of an unsecured appearance bond and the condition that she not have contact with children under the age of 5, except for her grandchild under the supervision of one of the child’s parents.
This story has been corrected by removing reference to Vaillancourt’s lawyer not commenting.