Operator of day care will serve about five years

By JON FRANK , The Virginian-Pilot © February 24, 2006 Last updated: 3:16 PM VIRGINIA BEACH —

A woman who operated a Beach day care business without a license where an infant died last fall will likely serve five years behind bars . Anne Marie Cardinal, 42, wept as deputies led her out of the courtroom Thursday after the ruling from substitute General District Judge T.M. Ammons III . Ammons listened to more than a dozen witnesses during the two-day sentencing hearing at the Virginia Beach Circuit Court building. Cardinal had earlier pleaded guilty to 10 counts of operating a day care without a license between the dates of Sept. 1 and 14, 2005 . Ammons sentenced Cardinal to 12 months in jail for each count. Under Virginia law, with credit for good behavior, Cardinal is likely to get out of jail in five years. The state medical examiner could not determine how the 9-month-old girl died on Sept. 14 while in Cardinal’s care, despite indications that the child was smothered. But on Thursday, Ammons made it clear that he held Cardinal responsible for the infant’s death. “If she had done what she was supposed to do,” Ammons said, “it is entirely possible that (the infant) would be alive today.” Ammons said that Cardinal’s actions were “reprehensible.” In September, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by police, Cardinal was caring for 20 children at the time, ranging in age from 9 months to 7 years . The warrant said she admitted to police that she was not licensed and did not have an assistant at her day care. On Thursday, Ammons issued an order prohibiting Cardinal from working in the day care business again. He also ordered that she not be in the company of any child under the age of 12 without the presence of the child’s parent or guardian. Cardinal’s attorney, Arthur C. Ermlich Jr. , said his client is appealing the ruling. The offenses are the latest run-ins with the law for Cardinal. Cardinal has been the subject of several complaints to Child Protective Services, and since 2000, two children in her care have suffered spiral fractures. In October 2000, Cardinal admitted to police that she placed children as young as 1 in a closet for up to three hours at a time so she would not have to listen to them cry. Cardinal was convicted in December 2000 of one misdemeanor count of child neglect for putting children unattended in the closet. She was given a 60-day suspended jail sentence. At the time, the judge said he had no power to shut down the business, Anne Marie’s Child Care, at 2449 Hunts Neck Trail . Several months later, Cardinal and her husband, Michael Cardinal, were charged with conspiring to obtain money under false pretenses, a felony. They pleaded guilty. Michael Cardinal also pleaded guilty to three other similar charges. Reach Jon Frank at (757) 222-5122 or jon.frank@pilotonline.com. © 2006 HamptonRoads.com/PilotOnline.com