Bail set for mom of dead toddler, victim's father speaks out

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, The Press Tribune
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Denise McGrath-Wilder, charged with felony child abuse in relationship to the death of her 2-year-old baby, McKinley, was granted conditional bail Thursday afternoon at the Placer County Jail Courthouse. McGrath-Wilder had previously been held without bail following an arrest on June 18. Placer County Judge John L. Cosgrove ultimately ruled that the circumstances of McGrath-Wilder?s current charges do not legally merit her being held without bail. He set a conditional bail at $500,000, with drug and alcohol testing conditions to be monitored by the Placer County Probation Department. McGrath-Wilder?s lawyer, Jess C. Bedore III, was the first to speak during Thursday's hearing. "My client is now being held in 'no bail' status," he observed, "which I believe is illegal in the circumstances of this case. There's no public safety impact if it doesn't involve willful or premeditated charges like murder or manslaughter. What we have is a dead child and a lot of unanswered questions." Placer County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Botwinik countered that McGrath-Wilder is both a major flight risk and danger to her surviving daughter. Botwinik recalled that, on the night McKinley was found dead, her mother had a .20 blood-alcohol level; adding that on the day McGrath-Wilder was re-arrested in June she had a .30 blood-alcohol level and alleged evidence of cocaine in her system. "The court can hold her without bail in extraordinary circumstances," Botwinik said. "She is a danger to the community, and her other daughter is very fearful of her mother. The 5-year-old has been living with her father, who reports that she?s worried she?ll be taken by her mother and harmed. Mr. Wilder says his daughter has only been able to sleep through the entire night since her mother's been in custody. We can't trust the defendant to follow the court order to stay away from her daughter because she?s unstable and has a known substance abuse problem." Alluding to the fact that McGrath-Wilder's father was recently arrested on child pornography charges, Botwinik added, "They're both facing serious prison time, so I think there's a flight risk." McKinley's father, Mark Wilder, also addressed the court. "Yesterday was three months since the body of the most beautiful toddler was found dead," Wilder said, fighting back tears. "That child's name was McKinley Wilder. But there was another victim in the case, a 5-year-old girl who now blames herself for her sister's death, since she was the older sister." Wilder went on to say his surviving daughter had been suffering from night terrors and extreme depression. "She cries for hours when she goes to bed, but when she learned her mother would not get out of jail, it was the first time she slept through the night," he remembered. "There are some people who believe Denise McGrath-Wilder willfully tortured and murdered her child, and (my daughter) is one of them. I'd ask you deny bail for the safety and sanity of my 5-year-old daughter." In adding drug and alcohol testing to the conditions of McGrath-Wilder's bail, Cosgrove hoped to assuage fears that the defendant would approach her surviving daughter. "I'm glad bail was set," Bedore told the Press Tribune after the hearing. "We haven't made any decision on whether we'll be requesting bail, and we're still evaluating the case. We still have hundreds of pieces of materials coming in from the DA's office." The investigation into McGrath-Wilder first began on April 4, when Roseville police were called to the home she shared with her parents and two daughters. Officers reportedly discovered McGrath-Wilder highly intoxicated and McKinley dead inside the residence. A lengthy investigation by authorities led to McGrath being charged with several counts of felony abuse and neglect, as well as special allegations of inflicting great bodily injuries and producing circumstances likely to cause death.