RACINE — A Waterford woman was sentenced on Monday to three years of probation for keeping her granddaughter locked in a dog kennel, allegedly to manage her behavior.
Gail D. LaLonde, 47, of the 300 block of Foxhorn Drive, was charged with and pleaded no contest to felony charges of causing mental harm to a child and two misdemeanor counts of possession of a THC as a party to a crime. Felony counts of false imprisonment and manufacturing/delivery of THC were dismissed but considered for sentencing purposes.
During Monday’s sentencing, LaLonde also was sentenced to 104 days of jail time, with credit for time served, in what Racine County Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen called a “massive lapse of judgment.”
‘Disturbing,’ ‘unreal’ scene
Last September, Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to what was then LaLonde’s home in the Town of Norway, for a report of a child kept in a cage.
Deputies were contacted after the 9-year-old girl told a teacher at her Town of Norway elementary school that her grandmother had been locking her in a cage at night, according to a criminal complaint.
The case was reportedly mentioned after the girl showed up to school that day with a very short haircut. When her teacher asked about it, the girl said the haircut was punishment from LaLonde after she had tried to cut her own hair. The girl then mentioned the cage.
Investigators who found the cage reported that it had a cardboard floor and a few blankets, but no pillow. At the time, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling described the scene as “disturbing” and “unreal.”
The child was reportedly forced to be locked away in the evening in the dog kennel at about 8 p.m. and let out at about 7 a.m.
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The victim and another sibling were removed from the residence and placed into protective custody by Racine County Human Services.
‘A big, big error’
At LaLonde’s sentencing, defense attorney Jamie McClendon said LaLonde is facing serious health issues.
“She has her own battles,” McClendon said. “I know she has been remorseful … this is a big, big error. She wants to make up for this.”
In sentencing her to probation, Nielsen told some of LaLonde’s story. Because of family circumstances, LaLonde was taking care of one grandchild, then started talking care of a second grandchild. But one child’s behavioral problems were significant and LaLonde locked the child up at night.
“Is that appropriate? Lord, no,” Nielsen said. “You should have recognized you were in over your head … you should have reached out for help.”
Nielsen said he didn’t believe that there was a need to protect the community, but he did believe probation was appropriate.
Dale Deavers, the owner of the home, charged as a co-defendant, also is charged with false imprisonment, causing mental harm to a child, as well as maintaining a drug trafficking place and manufacturing marijuana.
He is scheduled for a plea hearing Friday in Racine County Circuit Court.