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Brittany Steward, Babysitter Convicted In Toddlers' Deaths, Returns To Prison

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Yourerie.com
Yourerie.com

ERIE, Pa. -- A babysitter convicted in the death of two toddlers has been sent back to prison, after being caught stealing money from her employer while on parole.

Brittany Steward, 26, admitted Monday that she acted with "stupidity" in November 2011, after her release from detention.

Nevertheless, Steward asked Erie County Judge John Garhart for leniency, according to The Erie Times-News.

The judge told Steward she had been given a second chance and just "threw it away."

On May 28, 2007, Steward, then a 20-year-old college student from Waterford, Pa., was babysitting her 20-month-old half-sister, Jenna Walker, and a neighbor's child, 2-year-old Maggie Kovski.

Witnesses say Steward had been drinking at a bonfire the night before and didn't leave the party until about 5:00 a.m., roughly three hours before the start of her babysitting job.

According to court documents, sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., Steward sent a text message to a friend, which read: "OK im [sic] finally done drinking and im [sic] rocked lol."

Steward fell asleep while watching the children. It was not until a few hours later when the telephone rang that she awoke and realized both children were missing. When Steward went outside to look for them, she found both of them dead in a pond, approximately 100 yards from the house.

Steward called 911 and requested an ambulance, but there was nothing paramedics could do.

Steward initially claimed she had been playing with the children outside and that the accident had occurred when she had gone inside to answer a phone call. She later admitted that she had been drinking the night before and had fallen asleep.

While en route to the hospital for a blood alcohol level test, police say Steward did not appear remorseful and occupied herself by making plans to go dancing at a local nightclub.

In the days immediately following the incident, state police learned Steward had contacted several people who were at the party she attended prior to her babysitting job. Authorities allege she asked them to change statements they had already given to detectives.

On May 31, 2007, Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook ruled that both the children had died from asphyxiation due to drowning. Steward was arrested and charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, and recklessly endangering another person.

"Given the fact that she knew she had this obligation on Wednesday morning, she still went ahead and conducted herself in the manner in which she allegedly did on Tuesday evening into Wednesday, coupled with the fact that she knew of this open pond in close proximity to the house, was a major consideration in the filing of the more serious charges," then Erie County District Attorney Bradley Foulk told the Associated Press following Steward's arrest.

In June 2008, Steward, roughly three months pregnant and free on bond, violated the terms of her release by staying out past her designated 11:00 p.m. curfew. It was later revealed that she had spent the night drinking. As a result of her curfew violation, Steward was placed on house arrest.

Steward's attorneys ultimately entered into a plea agreement with the prosecution, in which she pleaded guilty two counts of endangering the welfare of children. As a result of the plea, Garhart sentenced Steward to 11 1/2 to 23 months in jail.

"If I were to hold you fully accountable for the harm you have done, then you would never be free," Garhart said at the sentencing hearing.

In addition to the jail term, Garhart ordered Steward to attend victim-empathy classes and to serve 44 months of probation.

Steward severed her time and in November 2012 she began working at a store in Millcreek Township, while serving out the last few months of her probation. It was while working at the store, prosecutors said, that Steward began stealing money from the cash register.

According to the Yourerie.com, Steward pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of theft last month. She said she needed the money to pay for rent for herself and her daughter.

In asking for mercy Monday, Steward expressed concern about the consequences her daughter would have to face if her mother was sent to jail.

Maggie Kovski's father, Chris Kovski, was unmoved by Steward's concerns.

"My daughter had to suffer the consequences of her actions. If [Steward's daughter] has to suffer consequences, Brittany brought those on herself," he said in court, according to the Times-News

After listening to Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Hirz argue Steward had been given a second-chance and "threw it away," Garhart ruled that Steward had violated the terms of her probation in the child endangerment case.

"I believe it is appropriate to call her to account separately," for each case, Garhart said, the Times-News reported.

Garhart sentenced Steward to five years in prison for the drowning case probation violation and nine to 18 months behind bars for the theft case.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Brittany Steward's last name.

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