Prosecutors stick with felony charges against mother of toddler who went missing for hours

5th District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, date not specified | File photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The St. George mother of the toddler who went missing in October, triggering a massive search, appeared in court Wednesday for a resolution hearing on multiple felony charges, but with neither side backing down, no agreement was reached.

The attorney for Jennifer Rose, 39, of St. George, told 5th District Judge G. Michael Westfall his client wants to see the case resolved.

“We are really close to a resolution in this case,” Ed Flint said.

Close, but not close enough.

Flint said the state isn’t standing down or willing to reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. He also said his client is active in family drug court, an intense program that treats substance abuse issues with the goal of preserving families and protecting children.

Jennifer Rose booking photo, Washington County, Utah, Oct. 25, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

In October, Rose was charged with second-degree felony possession or use of a controlled substance and three third-degree felony charges – two counts of endangerment of a child or vulnerable adult and one count of abuse or neglect of a disabled child – as well as misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.

“The state still wants the felonies and a PSI,” he said.

A PSI is a presentence investigation carried out by Adult Probation and Parole that includes an oral and written interview used to create a report for the judge. The report  includes the defendant’s criminal history, substance abuse problems, family and employment history, as well as sentencing recommendations and other relevant facts relating to the criminal charges.

Flint asked the court for another week to see what can be worked out in the case, and with no objection from the state, Westfall continued the resolution hearing until June 26.

The charges stem from an incident Oct. 18 when police were called by a family member who reported that Brandon Stratton, 3, was missing and a search for the toddler ensued.

Read more: MISSING: Toddler missing from home near downtown St. George

When questioned by police Rose allegedly told the officers she was in Mesquite the previous day apartment hunting and left both children in the care of a babysitter and returned home at 3 a.m. where she found both children asleep on the couch. It wasn’t until later that morning that she was unable to find the toddler.

Rose gave conflicting stories about being stranded in Mesquite and later admitted she had gone to Mesquite to have sex with a man in return for money and to get drugs, only after officers obtained a warrant to search her cell phone, according to court records.

File photo of Brandon Stratton, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of the St. George Police Department, St. George News

At the same time, a multi-agency search for the toddler was well underway, and it wasn’t until the fifth hour that a family member brought the child to the police department after hearing that the boy had been reported missing.

The woman told officers that she went to the residence on the night Rose was in Mesquite and Brandon opened the door to let her in shortly before midnight. Brandon’s 6-year-old brother was there as well. Due to the conditions inside of the home she feared for the toddler’s safety and him to her residence.

Both children were removed from the home by the Department of Children and Family Services the next day, and Brandon tested positive for amphetamine. One week later the Washington County Attorney’s Office filed charges.

Rose was arrested Oct. 26 and remained in custody until her release into an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility in January where she remained until April.

Read more: Mother of missing 3-year-old arrested for neglect; toddler tests positive for amphetamine

Seven months before, she successfully completed the drug court program which included residential treatment and graduated March 7, 2018. She entered the intensive program after an arrest in 2017 where she was charged with five drug and weapon-related offenses that were dismissed a week after graduation.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.





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