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Mother sentenced to 4 years for drowning death of daughter while she slept

A 25-year old Merced woman was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison in connection with the drowning death of her 2-year old daughter.

Rachel Ladonna Harris pleaded no contest in Merced County Superior Court to one count of involuntary manslaughter after her daughter, Gracy Harris, fell into the family pool in May.

At the time, Harris was sleeping off the effects of methamphetamine and marijuana, according to Merced County Deputy District Attorney Monika Saini, who prosecuted the case.

The day before the drowning, Harris had given birth to another child. Hospital officials determined that Harris was under the influence of drugs at the time.

The baby girl was found to have drugs in her system, according to prosecutors. She was taken by Merced County Child Protective Services before Harris checked herself out of Mercy Medical Center against the advice of medical personnel, according to Saini, who was quoted in a news release.

When she returned home, Harris, who was the sole caretaker of 2-year-old Gracy, took a nap.

As she was sleeping, Gracy left the home through a sliding glass door and a screen door, neither of which had locking mechanisms, and fell into the pool, the news release said.

Saini said Harris had previously been warned not to fill the pool since she had a small child and there was no gate around the pool.

It was unclear how long Gracy had been in the pool before Harris discovered her body, Saini added.

"This incident serves as a grim reminder of how vulnerable children are and the tragedies that can take place when proper care is not provided for them," Saini said in the release.

"The death of this child was a completely avoidable tragedy that was the result of both a drug addiction and the failure to take basic safeguards to protect her," Saini noted.

On the day that Gracy drowned, Harris was determined to have methamphetamine, marijuana and barbiturates in her system, according to prosecutors.

Under the terms of Harris' plea, she will serve 30 months in custody followed by 18 months of supervised probation, Saini said.

The investigation by Detective Joe Deliman and the Merced Police Department was instrumental in obtaining the plea, Saini said.

"Nothing can bring 2-year-old Gracy back to those who loved her," Saini said in the release. "Ms. Harris will have to live with this for the rest of her life. Hopefully, others who are enslaved by their addictions will see this as a cautionary tale."

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