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South Strabane Woman Charged With Child Endangerment

May 8, 2018

A woman from South Strabane faces child endangerment charges. Police say she caused cuts on the faces of her two grandchildren by breaking open a car window.

The woman is Denise Tamulinas, age 57. In addition to the child endangerment charges, she was charged by township police with simple assault, disorderly conduct, obstructing the administration of law, and harassment.

According to court records, Tamulinas was arraigned before District Judge Jay Weller, who allowed her to remain free after posting a nonmonetary bond.

In court papers, an officer stated he was dispatched to Tamulinas’ house on Evergreen Drive at about 12:15 pm on the day of the incident. An insurance company’s roadside assistance service had reported a child choking inside a locked car.

The court papers state that when the officer arrived at the scene, the driver-side rear window of the car had been smashed, and broken glass littered two child safety seats. Two paramedics who had also arrived on the scene went with the officer to knock on the house’s front door.

Tamulinas answered the door. She denied the officer and paramedics entry to the home, closing the door on the officer several times as he attempted to go inside.

The paramedics found the children in a bedroom, after the officer put their grandmother on the ground and handcuffed her.

The children were taken to Washington Hospital for evaluation and treatment, because they “appeared to have several fresh, bleeding, superficial cuts on their faces,” the court papers said. One of the children was a year old, and the other was two.

I’m at a loss as to why this woman broke out the window she did, instead of breaking a front window, which might not have put her grandkids in as much danger, but I don’t know all the circumstances. I do know that child endangerment is a pretty serious charge. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor, and a conviction can come with a five-year prison sentence—if it’s one incident. If a person makes a habit of endangering the welfare of children, it becomes a third-degree felony. A conviction will then bring a seven-year prison sentence.

There are defenses, of course, and the one most glaringly obvious option for Ms. Tamulinas is that she was trying to save the life of the grandchild who was choking. It can also be argued that she didn’t intend to endanger either grandchild, and that the injuries were not serious. The onus is on the prosecutor to prove that she knew what she was doing was dangerous, and that she intentionally endangered them; if her attorney—and I certainly hope she has retained one—can show that Tamulinas didn’t intentionally hurt the children, there’s a good chance her case will be dismissed. Likewise, if it comes down to saving a child from choking and risking cuts on his face, or waiting for the police to come open the car doors and risking the death of the child, a judge and jury might be hard-pressed to convict her.

As for the other charges, I’d imagine they stem from her refusal to allow cops and EMT’s into the house. Her attorney may get some of them dropped if she agrees to a plea deal. A plea deal would have her pleading guilty to lesser charges in exchange for dropping the more serious ones. Too, many times, the cops will charge a person with multiple crimes in the hope that at least one “sticks.”

If she’s smart, Tamulinas will agree to a plea deal, because to refuse would mean being slapped with the most serious of the charges. And, juries are not known for letting people off scot-free. It’s far better to accept a plea deal than to face a jury. People fight me on this, but it’s true.

Whatever the outcome, I hope Ms. Tamulinas’ grandchildren are healed up and well now.

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