AUGUSTA — About to start her 12th year in prison and hoping to move to home confinement, Sally Ann Schofield, who was convicted in 2002 of manslaughter in the suffocation death of a 5-year-old girl, lost a bid to change her probation conditions Tuesday.
Justice Michaela Murphy denied the request from Schofield’s lawyer, Amanda Doherty, saying it was not timely because Schofield is still in prison. Doherty had asked the judge to modify a probation condition banning Schofield from direct or indirect contact with children under age 12.
Schofield, a former state child caseworker, was convicted in the death of Logan Marr, a foster child in her care. Wrapped in yards of duct tape in a tipped-over high chair, the girl died in the unfinished basement of Schofield’s Chelsea home on Jan. 31, 2001.
The high-profile case resulted in an overhaul of the state’s child welfare system, a focus on keeping children with relatives rather than in foster care, and more frequent visits by case workers.
Schofield, now 51, was found guilty of manslaughter on June 25, 2002, and is serving a sentence of 20 years in prison with all but 17 years suspended.
Doherty indicated in a written request to the court that Schofield “is eligible to apply for home confinement” at the end of the year even though the Department of Corrections lists her release date as May 2, 2017.
Doherty wrote that Schofield “is committed to following her probation conditions perfectly” and is concerned that she could be charged with violating probation if she had incidental or accidental contact with a young child at a grocery store, at church or elsewhere. “As probation conditions are currently outlined, defendant would not feel comfortable leaving her home for any reason,” Doherty said.
Doherty asked the judge to change the conditions to ban Schofield from unsupervised contact with children under 12.
“I was horrified,” said Marr’s mother, Christy Darling, of Durham, who watched the brief hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court. “She went to prison for a reason. Why should she be allowed to be around children? Why does she deserve it? It’s kind of stupid for her to ask this.”
Darling said she will continue to object. “I don’t want people to forget; I want Logan’s voice to be heard.”
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said the request was premature. He also told the judge, “It is unlikely the probation department will violate (Schofield) for accidental or incidental contact with children.”
The judge told Doherty she could file the request again later, after a decision about home confinement and an updated risk assessment.
Logan and her younger sister, Bailey, were taken from Darling — then known as Christy M. Baker — and placed first in a series of foster homes and then with Schofield, who was a supervisor in the state Department of Health and Human Services. That placement violated the state’s own rules. After Logan’s death, Bailey was returned to her mother.
Today an inquiry about Bailey brings a wide smile from Darling.
“She’s doing great,” Darling said.
Schofield, who is imprisoned at Women’s Center of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, waived her right to attend the hearing and was not brought to Augusta.
Doherty said Schofield was not surprised when she was told of the judge’s decision Tuesday morning.
“We had prepared for all different outcomes,” Doherty said.
Outside the court, Stokes said Schofield’s eligibility to apply for home confinement under Department of Correction guidelines does not mean her request will be approved.
“That’s not a guarantee, by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “Obviously people have the opportunity to object.”
Doherty said after the hearing that she intends to refile the motion to change the probation condition later. That change, she said, “would make it an easier standard to understand and not have any gray area.”
Court documents show that Schofield has been busy in prison and recently won a judge’s permission to count toward her 500 hours of community service the hours she spends knitting caps for the local cancer society and raffle items for her son’s school and 4-H activities.
She also serves on the Resident Council, which meets with the prison staff about ongoing concerns, edits the Women’s Center newsletter, and teaches mathematics, aerobics and line dancing classes, according to court documents.
Betty Adams — 621-5631