WISCASSET – A former adoption caseworker for the state was convicted of manslaughter Tuesday for causing the suffocation death of her 5-year-old foster daughter by covering her face and binding her to a highchair with 42 feet of duct tape.
Justice Thomas Delahanty II, who said Sally Schofield’s disciplinary action “defies common sense,” denied her request for bail after he announced his verdict in Lincoln County Superior Court.
Schofield, 40, of Chelsea, could get up to 40 years in prison in the Jan. 31, 2001, death of Logan Marr. No sentencing date was set.
Prosecutors said Schofield caused Logan to suffocate when she used tape to cover part of the girl’s face and bind her to a highchair during a “time out” in the basement of Schofield’s home.
The defense contended Logan most likely died from an undiagnosed seizure disorder, not asphyxiation.
Schofield sat motionless as the verdict was read by Delahanty, who heard five days of testimony during the nonjury trial. Earlier, he threw out a murder charge, saying prosecutors failed to prove their case.
She appeared to be in tears when she was escorted from the courtroom. Later, her head was covered with her blue sweater and she held a tissue to her nose as she was escorted to a police car to be taken to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta.
“She’s behind bars as of today. Justice has been served. The judge did the right thing. Logan’s voice was finally heard,” Logan’s biological mother, Christy Reposa, said afterward.
Defense lawyer Jed Davis was turned down when he asked the judge to reconsider his denial of bail, but Delahanty left the door open for Davis to renew his request. Schofield had been free on bail until Tuesday’s verdict.
Davis said no decision had been made on whether he would appeal the verdict.
The relationship was portrayed as a power struggle between a Schofield, strong-willed former Department of Human Services adoption caseworker, and Logan, who grew increasingly defiant and protective of her younger sister, Bailey, during her months in Schofield’s custody. Bailey has since been returned to her biological mother’s custody.
Matters came to a head when Logan told Schofield that school had been called off. When she learned that wasn’t true, Schofield said Logan owed her more “quiet time,” which the child spent in her room taking a nap, according to testimony.
Following the nap, Schofield said Logan owed her even more time.
“Logan rebelled to the added discipline and the defendant reacted to her defiance by taking her to the cluttered basement storage room, and placing her in a high chair facing the blank concrete wall,” the judge said.
Schofield bound the child to the high chair “then left Logan to struggle against her bonds in isolation,” Delahanty said. “She was fully aware of the attendant circumstances and the risk that her conduct presented and consciously disregarded that risk.”
Prosecutors said investigators found clumps of hair, bloody froth and a label from the back of Logan’s highchair stuck to strips of duct tape strewn across the basement. They said Schofield wound 10 layers of tape around the girl’s body and four layers over the top of her head and under her chin. Three strips were wrapped around her head and mouth.
“This woman was so committed to shutting this kid up and imposing her will on this child, that she lost control,” William Stokes, the deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case, said before the verdict.
Afterward, he said he was pleased with the verdict.
“Justice has been done and Mrs. Schofield will be held accountable. I have not seen one iota of acceptance of responsibility” by Schofield, he said.
It was not just the grisly nature of the case that drew attention, but the defendant’s position as a former caseworker for the state agency that monitors foster parents.
The case generated criticism of the department and prompted a pair of legislative investigations. The department acknowledged that Logan’s caseworker failed to make a quarterly visit to the Schofield home to check on her.
During the trial, Maine’s deputy chief medical examiner had testified that he suspected from the start that Logan died of asphyxia because of pinpoint hemorrhaging he saw around her eyes, on her eyelids and on her lips.
Dr. Michael Ferenc testified that he ultimately ruled that Logan died of asphyxia, or suffocation, for a number of reasons: her lack of injuries, negative toxicology test results, bloodstained duct tape and other physical evidence, in addition to the hemorrhaging.
A forensic pathologist testified for the defense that the cause of death should have been classified as undetermined.
Dr. John Cooper, of Fair Oaks, Calif., said the likeliest possibility was that Logan had an undiagnosed seizure disorder. Cooper said he studied the autopsy report and depositions of the state medical examiner, state police and Schofield before reaching his conclusion.
Schofield had previously offered to plead guilty to manslaughter if the state dropped the murder charge, but prosecutors refused.