Tulsa Woman Convicted Of Child Abuse Freed 10 Months Into 12-Year Prison Term

Monday, January 27th 2014, 5:48 pm
By: News On 6

A woman sentenced to 12 years in prison for abusing two different children is out after serving only 10 months. The judge told Meredith Howard she could do the rest of her time on probation as long as she spent the next two years at a ranch type setting out of state.

The families of the victims are outraged. They don't believe 10 months is long enough to punish Howard for what she did since she broke the thigh bone of a little boy and hurt a little girl so badly, she needed three surgeries. 

One of those children is Sophie. She's 4 and loves to play in the kitchen and pretend she's driving, but any time she sees a hospital or an ambulance, she cries in fear. Her dad says that's because of the surgeries she endured after being hurt by daycare worker Meredith Howard.

Sophie was 19 months old and attending John Knox development center where Howard was a worker.

Howard penetrated Sophie with such force, Sophie nearly bled to death on the way to the hospital, then had repeated surgeries - and they still don't know the long-term impact. 

Sophie's father, Matthew Stafford was shocked to learn that two years before Sophie's injury Howard had broken the leg of a 9-month-old boy at the Kirk of the Hills Mothers Day Out program where Howard was also a worker.

Howard pleaded no contest to both cases and the judge sentenced her to 12 years in prison.

But 10 months later, the judge released her.

"I haven't gotten justice for my child," said Matthew Stafford. "Ten months in prison for that? People are getting offenses for marijuana and going away for 20 years."

The judge agreed to send Howard to the Rainbow Acres in Arizona for two years. The website says it's a place where adults with developmental disabilities receive loving care on a ranch-style campus. 

"They get to go on shopping trips, sporting events, go on vacation," said Sarah McAmis of the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office. "I would like that, but if you've been convicted of abusing two kids, that shouldn't be an option for you."

12/20/2014 Related Story: Tulsa Day Care Worker Sentenced For Child Abuse Released

Rainbow Acres' website says it doesn't admit anyone with a history of hurting others, but Howard is to report there March 1. Her attorney says Howard's disabilities require something other than prison.

A psychologist who examined Howard says while she has low to average intelligence. Socially, she functions more like a child. The DA says the issue is the safety of other children. 

"We sincerely hope this defendant is not allowed to hurt any other innocent, helpless babies," McAmis said. 

When I asked Rainbow Acres why they're accepting someone with two felony child abuse convictions, they told me, "no comment."

Howard is allowed to be around the children in her own family, but not other kids.

Howard's attorney sent us a statement that says in part, Judge William Kellough is familiar with all the facts in this case and has a reputation for fairness and integrity.

Here is the statement from attorney Allen M. Smallwood:

Judge William Kellough has been the assigned judge in this case for over two years. He is as familiar with all of the facts and legal issues in this case as anyone involved in it. His reputation for fairness and integrity are above reproach. Armed with all the facts at his disposal he made his decision in this case which all parties are required to accept and live with.

Judge Kellough has, in the past, made decisions in other cases in which I was involved with which I might not have agreed. However, I always accept Judge Kellough's decisions as being well thought out and justified by all the facts and circumstances. I am unaware of any lawyer who practices before Judge Kellough who has any opinion different from mine about his good faith, integrity, and fairness.