With the plea, Keisha McReynolds, 37, told Judge William Syler at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson that she sold 16 hydrocodone pills for $60 to a confidential informant with the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force. The sale took place, police said, at Beautiful Beginnings Childcare on Hopper Road.
McReynolds, whose day care was shut down by state regulators the day the charges were filed, said little as she stood before the judge. After she withdrew her not-guilty plea, Syler ordered the department of probation and parole to prepare an assessment report for his review in time for the Jan. 7 sentencing date.
Her lawyer, Malcolm Montgomery, McReynolds' silence should not be construed as a lack of remorse.
"She's awfully ashamed of what she did," Montgomery said. "She knows it wasn't right."
Montgomery said it wouldn't be appropriate for him -- or his client -- to comment further about the specifics of the case with the sentence still undecided.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison, but McReynolds' guilty plea was made in an arrangement with prosecutors, who will recommend the judge sentence her to 120 days of shock incarceration in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Assistant prosecuting attorney Jack Koester said she would be placed on supervised probation if she successfully completes the 120-day program.
Montgomery is also free to try to convince the judge to sentence her to probation, Koester said.
Syler, as judge, is not bound by the recommendation and could still sentence McReynolds to anything within the sentencing boundaries.
McReynolds, a married mother of two, saw her day care closed by state authorities on Sept. 27 after allegations surfaced. The Department of Health and Senior Services, which oversees the state's child care regulations, hand-delivered a letter to McReynolds that the state was proposing to revoke her license in light of the charges.
McReynolds had 10 days to request an appeal hearing, but a letter dated Oct. 30 from the department said McReynolds made no such appeal. Her license has been revoked since Oct. 30.
The letter also said McReynolds' name had been placed on the Family Care Safety Registry for employment purposes, as authorized by Missouri law. Now, anyone who makes an inquiry to the state for employment purposes will be told of McReynolds' criminal background, the letter said. Without a state license, McReynolds can provide care for no more than four unrelated children.
The charge to which McReynolds pleaded guilty on Monday also was not as severe as the one prosecutors first filed. Originally, prosecutors mistakenly applied a stiffer drug-dealing charge that comes with committing the crime near a school -- a move that could have locked up McReynolds for 30 years.
Lowered charges were filed when questions from a Southeast Missourian reporter prompted the prosecuting attorney's office to research the matter to see if Missouri's s drug-free zones applied to day care facilities. The amended charge then allowed McReynolds to be released on a bond lowered from a $100,000 cash-only bond to a straight $25,000 bond.
McReynolds spent almost two weeks in the Cape Girardeau County Jail until the charge was amended.
100 Court St., Cape Girardeau, MO
2625 Hopper Road, Cape Girardeau, MO