By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
A Vermont judge has rejected a bid by a former Rutland child care provider — charged more than four years ago with manslaughter and child cruelty in the death of 6-month-old Harper Rose Briar — to dismiss the counts against her.
Stacey Vaillancourt was accused in 2019 of giving a fatal amount of a sedative found in over-the-counter antihistamines to the infant in her care.
Vaillancourt, through her attorney, sought to dismiss the two charges against her, leading to hearings that delayed the case proceeding to trial.
Judge Cortland Corsones recently wrote a 14-page decision rejecting Vaillancourt’s move to throw out the charges.
“Because there is substantial admissible evidence upon which a jury could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Defendant is guilty of both charges, the court denies the motion,” Corsones wrote.
The judge set a tentative trial date for Nov. 27.
When Vaillancourt was arraigned on the two charges in March 2019, she pleaded not guilty. If convicted of the charges, she faces up to 25 years in prison.
The Pittsford infant died Jan. 24, 2019, at the child care facility that Vaillancourt ran out of her home on North Street in Rutland. According to an affidavit filed by Detective Trooper Seth Richardson of the Vermont State Police, police were called at about 4:15 p.m. that day to the emergency room of Rutland Regional Medical Center, where Harper was pronounced dead.
Harper had been taken by ambulance to the medical center from Vaillancourt’s daycare, the affidavit stated. The ambulance had been called to the in-home child care facility for a report that Harper was not breathing, Richardson wrote.
It was Harper’s second day at the home when Vaillancourt gave her a fatal amount of diphenhydramine, an “over-the-counter (sedating) antihistamine used for treatment of allergic reactions,” according to a police affidavit filed in the case.
According to the affidavit, Vaillancourt told investigators she was the sole person who provided care for Harper that day.
An autopsy report from the state’s chief medical examiner’s office showed that Harper’s death was a homicide caused by “diphenhydramine intoxication.”
The prosecution has alleged that Vaillancourt provided the drug to sedate the infant.
Robert McClallen, Vaillancourt’s attorney, said at his client’s arraignment that she had run the daycare for 25 years but stopped operating it following the infant’s death.
In seeking to dismiss the charges, Vaillancourt’s defense had argued that the state case was based on circumstantial evidence and raised the possibility that another person could have administered the medication.
“The court is not persuaded by Defendant’s arguments,” Corsones wrote. “There is ample evidence that (Harper) was alive and breathing, well into the afternoon on January 24.”
The judge added that there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial and for a jury to weigh.
“To be sure, there is no evidence that Defendant knew that the amount of diphenhydramine she administered to (Harper) would cause intoxication, or death by intoxication,” Corsones wrote.
“However,” he added, “the circumstances here are at least sufficient to have a jury decide whether Defendant was subjectively aware that her actions risked harm to (Harper’s) health or well-being.”
Vaillancourt has been free on a $25,000 bond since her arraignment.
Rutland County State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan, the prosecutor in the case, declined comment when reached Monday. McClallen, Vaillancourt’s attorney, could not be reached Monday for comment.