MADISON (WKOW) -- A former Fitchburg day care operator received a five year probation sentence Wednesday for harming two children, and causing a disruption at a school.
Michelle Christensen was convicted in January of one felony charge involving a young child in her care, but a jury acquitted her on three other charges, and could not decide on three other felony counts. Those charges were dismissed by Assistant Dane County District Attorney Matthew Moeser Wednesday as a part of a plea agreement.
As part of that agreement, 43-year-old Christensen was convicted of two more crimes that took place after her January trial: she became disorderly at one of her children's schools, and later abused one of her children.
"I did hit him," Christensen told Dane County Judge Nicholas McNamara. "He's not hurt, there were no marks. I'm very sorry. I feel badly, he's my son."
McNamara inquired why Christensen failed to apologize to the family of the child she hurt in her care, or to any of the other families of children alleged to have been hurt by Christensen, as described in the charges jurors could not decide on. Christensen's attorney, Mark Eisenberg said he advised Christensen to refrain from such apologies, because they would be "hypocritical," since she fought the charges.
After Christensen's arrest in 2010, Tom Carlson came forward to authorities to report unexplained bruises on his young daughter while in Christensen's care. Carlson attended Christensen's sentencing and said he accepts Christensen's probation term, even though she could have received prison time.
"What's so important is that nobody ever entrusts their children to her care again," Carlson told 27 News.
Christensen's probation sentence includes provisions that she operate no day cares, and supervise no children.
Moeser said it would be hard to imagine that even after Christensen's sentence ended, that any parent would allow her to care for their children if Christensen resumes a day care business, given what would be learned about her through any basic background check. But Carlson admitted he did no background check when he hired Christensen in 2008.
Toni Etter's 11-month-old granddaughter was in Christensen's care, but jurors failed to decide whether the child's injuries were caused by Christensen.
Etter said state officials need to examine a child care certification system that allowed Christensen to continue to operate a sanctioned in-home facility, even though she had been considered a danger to herself and her children in the past because of mental health issues. Etter said her family was unaware of Christensen's past when her granddaughter was placed in Christensen's day care.
McNamara acknowledged Christensen's mental health challenges and need for continued treatment to be monitored by state corrections officials.
"I worry for your children...I worry for their safety," McNamara said.
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