Melissa Ringhardt to take plea deal
Following her indictment on January 15, Melissa Ringhardt is expected to take a plea deal on Thursday afternoon on charges of endangering a child.
Ringhardt will return at a later date for sentencing. She could face up to 20 years in prison for the second degree felony.
The charges stem from an incident in October 2013 in the 1200 block of Scott Drive. Dispatchers received a call about an unresponsive child. Upon arrival, deputies met with the caller and located the child at the residence who appeared to have a fatal gunshot wound to the head. He was identified as five-year-old John Allen Read. His parents are Kayla and Joe Read.
According to reports, the boy was left with a babysitter, 19-year-old Ringhardt, at the child’s home located in the 1200 block of Roberts Road which is one block over from Scott Drive. Ringhardt said she heard a noise in another room of the residence. When she went to see what it was, she discovered the child with the injury. There was not a phone at the residence to call for help, so she carried the child to his grandparent’s house on Scott Drive where emergency personnel could be called.
Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Rodney Price was called to the scene where he pronounced the child dead.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, during the preliminary investigation it appeared the shooting was accidental. But, the investigation later revealed something much more. Ringhardt had been living with the Read family in their residence for the past few months. On the day of the shooting, she was left alone with the five-year-old boy and a six-month-old infant.
Ringhardt stated to investigators she was carrying a handgun on her person in the home because she was scared of being home alone. The handgun was a semi-automatic .40 caliber pistol. Ringhardt left the handgun on a coffee table in the living room and went to the bedroom to take a nap. When Rinehardt later awoke from her nap, she noticed she didn’t see the boy around the house. She began looking until she found him deceased in the living room with the fatal gunshot wound. The six month old child was not harmed. Ringhardt then carried both children to the grandparent’s house to get help.