Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A day care provider in Chinook has been charged in state District Court in Chinook with negligent homicide, almost two years after the death of an infant in her care. Sharon Miller is accused of negligence in the death of 6-month-old Jenna Unruh, daughter of Chaz and Katie Unruh, who drowned in a sink where Miller was giving the infant a bath on Aug. 29, 2006, according to a court document. Katie Unruh said she has mixed feelings about the charge being filed, and believes it should have been filed much sooner. “Sometimes you feel bad but you don’t have any say over it, it’s a state filing,” she said. “It’s angry but relieving. “It’s not going to bring (Jenna) back anyway,” Unruh added. Miller made her first appearance on the charges, which were filed July 22, Monday. She is scheduled to enter her plea on the charges on Aug. 12. According to the document, Miller, who had been taking care of Jenna Unruh for several months, was caring for her and another infant in Chaz and Katie Unruh’s residence. Miller was bathing the infant in a bathing seat placed in a utility sink filled with about 6 inches of water. The other infant in her care, who was in another room, began to cry and Miller left to change that child’s diaper. When Miller returned, Jenna Unruh’s head was under water, the document said. Miller removed the infant from the water and called 911. When emergency medical technicians arrived, they began CPR on the infant and transported her to a medical facility, arriving at 9:31 a.m. Medical staff members began a series of resuscitation and life-saving procedures, which were unsuccessful, the document said. Jenna Unruh was pronounced dead at 10:21 a.m. Blaine County At torney Don Ranstrom, who served as county attorney from 1979 to 1995, when he lost his bid for re-election, was re-elected in 2006 and took office in January 2007, f ive months af ter the incident occurred. He said the reason it took a year-and-a-half before he filed the charges was primarily trying to get caught up on the caseload, including prosecuting a homicide charge in which the trial was pending when he took office. “The main reason was just the workload we had,” he said. He also said that, especially in a case with a charge as serious as negliGent homicide, the county attorney has to make sure all procedures are followed properly. “You want to do it right,” Ranstrom said. “You don’t want any problems, any evidentiary difficulties.” While he acknowledged that a delay in filing charges or prosecuting a case is very difficult for the family of the victim to accept, Ranstrom said improper procedures could lead to a more difficult situation. “I believe it would be even harder to deal with if evidentiary problems came up leading to a lesser conviction or even an acquittal,” he said. In addition to the existing cases when he took the position of county attorney, his office has had to deal with a large number of new cases, especially an extremely high number of felony driving under the influence citations in recent months, he said. “We have had an inordinate amount of criminal activity in the county,” Ranstrom said. He added that, although he is in the process of hiring a deputy county attorney, he has been the only attorney in the office since he took the position. “It’s been a one-man show, so to speak,” Ranstrom said. Ranstrom filed seven criminal cases in District Court last year, and has so far filed 10 this year. Under the previous county attorney, Yvonne Laird, the Blaine County Attorney’s office filed 16 criminal cases in 2006, 13 in 2005, 12 in 2004 and 23 in 2003.