Warwick woman charged with manslaughter and neglect in daughter’s 2019 death pleads no contest

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – A Warwick mom, charged in 2019 with manslaughter in the death of her adoptive daughter, plead no contest on Wednesday.

55-year-old Michele Rothgeb faces charges of manslaughter and cruelty or neglect. She originally pled not guilty to all those charges.

She will be sentenced in November.

The case dates back to January 3, 2019. Police found 9-year-old Zah-Nae Wilkerson dead in a bathtub at the family’s home. The girl, who had cerebral palsy, was one of eight adopted by Rothgeb. All children had disabilities.

Rothgeb told police at the time the 9-year-old girl was covered in vomit, so she put her in the bath and left her 15-year-old son to watch her. Eight hours later she was found unresponsive.

According to investigators, all the children were found in horrible living conditions. They say the house was covered in feces and garbage.

DCYF faced serious scrutiny following the case, unable to answer how eight children with disabilities were able to live under the same roof and how those horrible conditions went unnoticed by the department.

Four DCYF employees were disciplined at the time and the case led to changes, p

utting caps on the number of foster and adoptive children allowed under one roof. That number now caps at five.

Categories: News, Rhode Island, Warwick