Dropped zero leads to release of child neglect defendant

A woman charged with neglecting and locking her 8-year-old malnourished niece in a bedroom was released from jail Friday on a $10,000 bond.

The problem is, her bond was supposed to be $100,000.

Jackson County prosecutors aren’t sure who made the $90,000 mistake, but it occurred after a grand jury indicted Michele Kraft, 28, on Friday on felony charges of assault and child endangerment. A judge or prosecutor — no one’s sure which — dropped a zero when writing Kraft’s bond amount on her new paperwork.

Since the original bond allowed Kraft to post 10 percent, she only needed $1,000 to get out of jail. Her husband, Jeffrey “Adam” Kraft, remained behind bars facing the same felony charges but with his $100,000 bond intact.

Prosecutors on Wednesday filed a motion to reinstate the original bond, noting in court filings that the lower bond was the result of a clerical error. The motion asked that Michele Kraft surrender to the court or post the higher bond. If she does not, prosecutors said they will seek an arrest warrant.

The error first came to light Monday, when the Krafts appeared in court for arraignment. Prosecutors noticed that Michele Kraft was not in custody. She had posted a lower bond without an attorney’s request or a hearing necessary to deliberately lower the amount.

Prosecutors spent Tuesday interviewing courthouse employees and retracing their actions to determine how the error occurred.

Mike Mansur, spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, said new paperwork is generated after a grand jury indictment that replaces original charging documents. The prosecutor in the grand jury room normally writes the bond amount on a sticky-note to let the judge know what the existing bond is. The judge then fills out the new paperwork and writes down the bond.

The bond amount is rarely lowered after an indictment, Mansur said, so there’s not usually any confusion. He said courthouse veterans could not recall a similar mistake occurring before.

“We don’t think there’s any need to change the process,” he said. “Generally, the system works. But obviously everyone is going to be paying extra attention to ensure future errors don’t occur.”

Mansur noted that Michele Kraft’s bond conditions still stipulated that she have no contact with the victim in her case, so the child was never in danger.

Because Michele Kraft was able to post bond, she was no longer eligible for a public defender. She hired a private attorney, Reginald Davis, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Prosecutors were working with Davis on Wednesday to arrange Kraft’s surrender.

Police arrested the Krafts last month after someone called the child abuse hotline and officers found the 8-year-old girl locked in a bedroom that smelled of urine. She is referred to in court documents as GW. Her younger sister told police GW spent most of her time confined in the room, where she ate and sometimes urinated.

The Krafts had legal custody of the girls since 2008. Court records noted that GW had lost six pounds in recent years while living with the Krafts. The state took custody of the girls and the Krafts’ 5-month-old baby.

The biological mother of GW and her 5-year-old sister said Wednesday she was glad the clerical error was being addressed.

“They need to continue to sit in jail and take responsibility for what happened,” said Dana Kraft, who is hoping to be reunited with her daughters. “The recovery for the girls is going to take many more years than they will probably spend in jail, so no matter what, it’s not going to be fair. But for her to be out at this point is beyond unfair.”