Care attendant sentenced to probation for neglect

Published 10:56 am Friday, July 11, 2008

The former personal care attendant convicted of child neglect for an incident involving a disable teenage client was sentenced in Mower County District Court Thursday to two years probation.

Terra Jane Morgan, 35, must abstain from alcohol and drugs, submit to random testing, complete a chemical-dependency evaluation and follow recommendations, pay a $50 fine plus court costs and avoid unsupervised contact with minors, including her children, as part of her sentence.

She pleaded guilty to her only charge — gross misdemeanor child neglect — April 1.

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According to the criminal complaint, Morgan was found face down on her living room floor the afternoon of Aug. 26 by her client’s mother, who’d permitted the defendant to take her 18-year-old daughter to her home earlier that morning.

The complaint said Morgan arrived at the victim’s home around 8 a.m. to give the young woman, who suffers from cerebral palsy, a bath. The defendant appeared tired and stated she’d “gone out drinking” the night before, the complaint said, though asked the mother if she could return to her home with her client to pack boxes.

The mother consented, instructing Morgan to return by 1 p.m.

By 2 p.m., Morgan hadn’t returned, so the victim’s mother went to the defendant’s Fourth Street Southwest home, where she found Morgan face down and unresponsive on the floor, the complaint states.

The victim was lying on the couch crying, and her mother took her home after trying several times to stir Morgan.

She and another returned to the defendant’s home an hour later to find Morgan in the same condition, according to the complaint. Morgan’s pupils were allegedly dilated when she awoke, and she stumbled into the television and walls as she exited the living room.

Austin police tried several times to make contact with Morgan, and finally succeeded several days later.

Morgan said during the interview with police at her house that she had been drinking the night before, the complaint said, though denied driving to her client’s house. She also said she didn’t know how the young woman left her home or remember her mother arriving that afternoon, according to the complaint, which states that she ended the interview for fear she would get in trouble.