December 15, 2007

Kennewick Woman Charged With Leaving Day Care Kids Alone

By Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Dec. 15--A Kennewick woman who ran an unlicensed day care has been charged with leaving four young children home alone while she ran errands for at least an hour.

Kristeen M. Kappenman, 43, has been sent a summons to appear Jan. 2 in Benton County Superior Court on two counts of second-degree abandonment of a dependent person.

The felony charges involve a 16-month-old girl and 5-year-old boy, though police also found a 6-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl left unsupervised in the 7303 W. Sixth Place home.

Kennewick lawyer Jim Egan reportedly has been hired by Kappenman. Egan could not be reached Friday for comment.

Officers were called to Kappenman's home Nov. 28 after state day care licensing officials knocked on the door and realized no adults were home. The 5-year-old boy answered the door.

Investigators with the state Department of Early Learning had gone there to check whether Kappenman was operating a day care without a license, after receiving several complaints, an agency spokesman earlier told the Herald.

Police found the older boy and girl lying on sleeping bags and pillows.

"Officers heard a baby crying and discovered (a) 16-month-old in a playpen that had been placed inside a closet," Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra wrote in the charging documents. The infant's "diaper appeared to be soaked in urine."

Around the house police also found a cordless power drill with a drill bit attached, a lighter and a Christmas tree decorated with strings of beads, lights and ornaments -- all within the children's reach.

Kappenman, who also is known as Kristy Helland, returned home 55 minutes after the state investigators arrived to find police waiting for her, according to court documents. She "was promptly arrested for driving with a suspended license," documents said.

Kappenman allegedly told police that she had left the kids with another adult, while the baby's mother told the Herald she'd heard the child care provider may have gone to Hermiston for a job interview.

Kappenman had a state license to provide in-home child care service from 1991 to 2001, then again in February of this year. However, she voluntarily surrendered her license July 3 after Child Protective Services and the Department of Early Learning investigated allegations that she'd left young children unsupervised at her home, court documents said.

Despite giving up her license, the state agency continued to receive complaints in July, September, twice in October and most recently Nov. 15. On Oct. 19, she was fined $5,025 for providing unlicensed child care, the agency said.


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