The father of a Grain Valley infant who lost nearly all of his fingers to a pet ferret in January 2011 pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor, avoiding possible prison time.
Ryan Waldo agreed that he would not see the child during a two-year probationary period, and he pledged to meet other sentencing conditions to avoid harsher punishment.
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In accepting the plea agreement, Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners said he expected Waldo to meet the conditions, adding that “he would not hesitate” to impose harsher punishment if Waldo did not.
Waldo declined comment after the hearing in Independence. He gave no information regarding the health or status of the child, now 2 years old.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said lawyer Dan Miller, who represented Waldo.
He said he thought the plea agreement was fair.
Waldo, whom prosecutors originally charged with felony child endangerment, had been scheduled to go on trial Monday.
Manners accepted Waldo’s guilty plea to second-degree child endangerment.
Manners also ordered that Waldo serve 40 hours of community service, complete parenting classes and have no contact with other children who had been living in the residence when the ferret attacked the baby.
Alison Dunning, who represented the Jackson County prosecutor’s office, declined to detail why the lesser charge was made available. A trial for Carrie Waldo, the child’s mother, is scheduled for this June.
About 2:30 a. m. Jan. 10, 2011, emergency personnel responded to a 911 call from the Waldos’ home in the 200 block of Young Street in Grain Valley.
Authorities found the 4-month-old boy with only two thumbs and part of a pinkie finger remaining.
The child was taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital in critical condition.
According to court records, Carrie Waldo told authorities the child had been asleep in his infant rocker in the front room. She had fallen asleep in that room while watching television, she told investigators, while her husband slept in a nearby bedroom.
Upon being awakened by the child’s screams, she saw the ferret in the child’s rocker, with blood “covering” the child, she said.
She called 911 and her husband killed the ferret, she said.
That June, prosecutors charged both Ryan and Carrie Waldo with first-degree child endangerment.
Prosecutors alleged that the Grain Valley parents could not have tried to rescue their child because neither was home at the time.
Cellphone records subpoenaed by investigators indicated that phones belonging to each parent “were not present in the area of their residence when the victim was injured by the ferret,” according to court records. GPS location documents indicated the phones were calling and texting each other in several different locations when the ferret was attacking the child.
Both phones were in the area of the residence when the 911 call was made, according to court documents.
The documents also described how two detectives serving a search warrant at the residence the day of the incident noted that the parents apparently had moved several items, including the infant rocker or chair in which the child had been sleeping.
The chair had been cleaned, court documents said. Also, Carrie Waldo began crying during the search warrant execution and made statements such as “I know something is going to happen” and “Something happened, this is neglect and you should just arrest me.”
In May 2011, the Missouri Highway Patrol crime laboratory reported that the ferret’s stomach contents had screened positive for the presence of human blood.
Subsequent investigation indicated that the Waldos’ landlords had told an area ferret advocate that the Waldos had been considering giving the ferret away “because the ferret had bitten their baby twice.”
On the witness stand Friday, Waldo said that the animal had been a Christmas gift to the family and that it sometimes had bitten the children.
“It bit, but never caused serious…” Waldo said without finishing the sentence.
Waldo also confirmed that he killed the ferret.
Manners told Waldo that Miller “had done a good job” for him, considering that the original charge carried the possibility of prison time.
After the hearing, Miller said he had been confident heading into trial, adding that he didn’t think the cellphone records cited the prosecutors were conclusive.
“I’m not impressed with what the cellphone records said,” Miller said, adding that they “just triangulate and put you in an area.”
Ryan Waldo, he added, had been a conscientious and caring parent.
“All Ryan Waldo did was go to work, come back home and bring home a paycheck,” Miller said.