Time served after local infant dies
Port Republic woman pleads guilty to neglect; does six months in jail
A Port Republic woman was released last week after serving six months in jail for a child neglect conviction following her 4-month-old infant’s death last year.
Hollie Marie Brown, 32, was sentenced to five years in prison with all but six months suspended on Oct. 22 at the
circuit court after she pleaded guilty to child neglect, which is a misdemeanor. Brown was released after last week’s hearing for having served the sentence in pre-trial custody since April.
Brown and David Robert Burton, 35, were indicted by a grand jury in April for second-degree murder, manslaughter and neglect of a minor in the death of their child Michael Burton.
The state’s attorney’s office dismissed the second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for Brown and Burton earlier this month after one of the prosecution’s key medical experts amended his opinion.
Because of the change of expert opinion, the prosecution was no longer able to sustain the gross negligence element required in second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, according to Kathryn Marsh, former deputy state’s attorney and a special prosecutor for the state’s attorney’s office.
“We believe strongly that this was never a murder or manslaughter. Ms. Brown should never have been charged,” said Luke Woods, Brown’s lawyer from the public defender’s office, by phone this week. “We are relieved that she has been released to heal and grieve with her family.”
While the state’s attorney’s office dropped the two felony charges, the government continued to prosecute Brown and David Burton for neglect of a minor for several alleged negligences, including not using a machine that monitors the baby’s breathing and not filling his prescribed medication.
Born prematurely on Oct. 27, 2016, Michael Burton had breathing issues, and his conditions required an apnea machine to alert the parents if he stopped breathing, Marsh said.
On Jan. 27, 2017, Marsh said Brown asked if they could stop using the ma- chine because it was too loud and was told by their pediatrician that they could not discontinue the machine until the infant was cleared by a pulmonologist.
About a month later, the infant was brought to the emergency room by a family friend due to wheezing and having difficulty breathing. He was hospitalized for bronchiolitis, a common lung infection in young children and infants that can lead to pneumonia.
Brown and David Burton reportedly did not respond to the hospital until the hospital contacted police for a welfare check, according to Marsh.
When the infant was discharged March 2, 2017, he was prescribed albuterol and prednisone, but the prescriptions were reportedly not filled. Marsh said the parents also did not use the machine to monitor his breathing after he was released from the hospital.
On March 5, 2017, police and paramedics responded to a call and found Michael Burton unresponsive and without a pulse. He was intubated after being taken to Calvert-Health Medical Center in Prince Frederick and was later transported to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. Marsh said the infant never began breathing on his own again and was removed from life support machines after he was found brain dead. Michael Burton died on March 6, 2017.
Other than knowing the infant suffered from bronchial pneumonia, Marsh said the cause and manner of his death were both “undetermined” after the medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy.
A review of the infant’s medical record, however, showed the parents did not use the machine, which would have alerted them when his breathing pattern changed prior to when he stopped breathing, and that they reportedly smoked in their bedroom where the infant slept, according to the prosecutor.
In addition to the child neglect conviction, Brown was found guilty of possessing drug paraphernalia Dec. 1, 2017, for a March 2017 offense in Calvert and was given two years of unsupervised probation. She also pleaded guilty to possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana for an Aug. 15 offense in Annapolis and was placed on one year of probation. The Annapolis case has since been reopened due to her violation of probation following her indictment.
For the child neglect conviction, Calvert Circuit Judge Mark Chandlee placed Brown on five years of supervised probation upon her release.
A plea hearing for David Burton is scheduled for Nov. 15 in circuit court.