Woman charged with abuse

Published September 23, 2005

TAMPA - A recently licensed home day care operator with a history of arrests for fraud and drug possession was booked into the county jail Thursday morning - charged with shaking a baby boy so violently, he suffered a bruised brain.

Tampa Police Department investigators arrested 44-year-old Dorothy Ann Monroe at her home, 1803 E Rampart St., at 9 a.m. and charged her with one felony count of aggravated child abuse. Thursday night, she was being held in the Orient Road jail without bail.

The arrest came nearly eight weeks after the baby's mother took him to University Community Hospital because she was concerned the baby was "lethargic and unresponsive" following a few hours in Monroe's care, said police spokesman Joe Durkin.

"It was this mother's instinct that got the baby the medical care he needed and may very well have prevented this child or someone else's child from serious physical harm down the road," Durkin said.

Melanie Hall, mother to the nearly year-old baby, declined to comment Thursday, but Durkin said the baby is doing well. Monroe's husband also declined to speak to a reporter Thursday afternoon.

According to police, Hall left her son at Monroe's home at 5:30 p.m. on July 28. Hall picked him up at 8:15 p.m. and immediately noticed something was wrong with him.

Hall called Tampa Fire Rescue, but rescue workers did not find anything wrong after examining the child at the scene, Durkin said.

"They said he appeared to be okay, but Mom insisted on taking him to the hospital," Durkin said. "She felt something was not right."

Doctors did a closer examination of the baby and found his brain was bruised, Durkin said.

"That doesn't come from a gentle shake to wake him up," Durkin said. "It comes from a violent shake."

Detective Robert Parrish has spent the past several weeks interviewing many people, including Monroe, who is 5-foot-2 and 245 pounds.

"She admitted she shook the baby," Durkin said. "But she gave us varying accounts of why."

She said she shook the baby because he wouldn't stop crying, according to police. She also said she was trying to wake up the baby. She even told detectives she tried to give the baby CPR "because he was limp," according to Durkin.

According to state criminal records, Monroe was convicted of credit card fraud in 1988 and sentenced to community service. She was sentenced to 21/2 years in state prison for cocaine possession in 1991. Four years later, she was sentenced to two years of probation for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and possession of drug paraphernalia, state records show.

Linda Stoller, manager of the county's child care licensing program, said the county typically does not issue licenses to people convicted of serious crimes involving drugs or children. But would-be day care operators with criminal histories can petition the Department of Children and Families for an exemption to the rule.

Department spokesman Andy Ritter said exemptions are considered for applicants who have not been arrested within the past three years. He would not confirm whether Monroe applied for an exemption.

According to Hillsborough County's Division of Children's Services, Monroe got her license in May. The license allows her to care for up to 10 children, from infants to age 13, during the days and evenings. The license prohibits her from caring for more than five children under 5 years old at once.

In July, county inspector Paula Adkins visited the home and found Monroe was caring for six children of preschool age, records show. Adkins also found a lawn mower and gas can on the patio near where the children play, as well as insect repellent on a table outside.

A subsequent visit on Aug. 1 found Monroe had corrected the problems, according to records filed with the state.

Durkin said the day care is closed, and the DCF is investigating.

"It's a parent's worst nightmare," he said. "You're trusting everything to another adult."

Staff researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3373 or svansickler@sptimes.com