A Manheim Township couple pleaded guilty Friday in Lancaster County Court to charges regarding the drowning death of their 3-year-old daughter.
On April 28, 2017, the girl, unsupervised, wondered out of a Farmstead Lane home and into the family’s swimming pool – while both parents slept inside.
She was found over an hour later, and pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Susie L. Rehm, the girl’s mother, pleaded guilty to felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child.
In exchange for the plea, Rehm, 40, will serve 1 to 2 years in prison, followed by four years of probation, as ordered by Lancaster County Judge David Ashworth.
Geoffrey Bussard, the girl’s father, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor endangering a child. Lancaster County Judge Jeffery Wright ordered a five-year probation term.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Muller said Rehm was more culpable because she was to be watching the child – but instead fell asleep on a couch. Bussard was asleep upstairs.
The couple’s older daughter, a teenager, typically watched the 3-year-old on a daily basis, beginning when she got home from school. On April 28, 2017, the older daughter asked her mother to watch the young girl; Rehm agreed and the older daughter went upstairs to her bedroom, leaving the child in Rehm’s care.
In court, Muller said the death was the result of a situation that perpetuated over time. Specifically, Muller said, the home was uninhabitable. Police found no place for the young girl to sleep: The crib and accessways to it were full of clutter.
Police found evidence of ongoing drug use at the home.
Also, the parents had installed an alarm on a rear door because of the child’s tendency to wander. However, at some point, they removed the batteries because the alarm sound became annoying.
The girl reached the pool through the rear door.
The girl was in the pool for over an hour – possibly several – before she was found, a doctor determined. The girl’s body temperature had dropped to 88 degrees.
The older daughter went into the pool in attempts to save her sister. Rehm had stayed on the side of the pool, and tried to reach the 3-year-old from there.
In filing charges, Manheim Township police considered:
- The pool was not secured/child-proofed
- The pool was not covered
- The parents’ ongoing drug use
- Conditions of the home
- The parents placed the girl in their older child’s care on a daily basis
- That the girl was in the pool for over an hour
Detective Nicholas Fritz filed charges.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright