A 23-year-old Algoma woman was arrested Monday (Feb. 15) in connection with the death of a 7-month-old girl who drowned in her care.
Cheyanne Wierichs was arrested on police charges of child neglect resulting in death, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Algoma police say they were called Feb. 9 to a residence on Fourth Street, where the infant had drowned. After an investigation aided by the state Division of Criminal Investigations, they arrested Wierichs.
During an appearance in Kewaunee County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Judge Keith Mehn released her on a $25,000 signature bond. A formal criminal complaint has not yet been filed.
Conditions include that she maintain absolute sobriety, take prescription medication, and complete an alcohol and other drug abuse assessment. Any visits with her surviving child must be arranged through the Department of Human Services.
The aging Kewaunee County Jail does not have separate accommodations for men and women, so when a woman is arrested, the county must find a place to house her in another county or release her on bail.
During a presentation to the county board last week about the stalled project to build a new jail, Sheriff Matt Joski said other law enforcement agencies are forced to work around the old jail’s limitations.
“In the past we’ve had a significant number of arrest warrants — we know we can’t serve them because we’ve got no place to put them,” Joski said. “When the judge goes to make a sentence, he knows in the back of his head, ‘You know, I’d really like to sentence this person to this amount of time, but I know the jail can’t take him,’ so he may adjust his sentencing parameters. That’s a problem … Probation holds: When people who are out of prison and on probation end up committing crimes, violating probation, they end up in our jail. Well, these probation agents realize the jail can’t hold them.”
The 52-year-old jail has 22 beds, and the county routinely has twice that population and more in custody, housed in other counties, or out on bail.
A resolution to spend $179,000 on the next phase of planning for a new jail failed in January. The measure passed 11-8 but needed a two-thirds majority because it involved a budget transfer. County Board Chairman Dan Olson, who was among the eight dissenters, said Feb. 9 he would “be in touch” with affected committees to discuss the next step.
The board’s Public Safety Committee had a lengthy discussion of the issue the following morning, and Supervisor John Mastalir, the committee chairman, said he intends to do his best to educate the public about the need, including a conversation with Olson.
“We’re going to do what we can to move this forward,” Mastalir said. “I honestly believe we need to talk to the public, we have to sell what we’re going to do. Unfortunately right now we only have some numbers that are preliminary numbers and may not be the numbers that we eventually settle on.”
Supervisor Joe Lukes encouraged Joski to attend annual town meetings in April to inform the public.