Warwick woman sentenced 18 years in connection to daughter’s death


WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE)- A Warwick woman, charged with manslaughter in connection to the 2019 death of her adopted daughter, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Wednesday.

Michele Rothgeb, 55, was sentenced to 30 total years for manslaughter. The sentencing will be split into two parts, the first half will be served in prison, the second will be served on probation.

Rothgeb was sentenced an additional three years for child neglect, bringing to the total prison time to 18 years.

She plead no contest to charges of manslaughter and cruelty or neglect back in August.

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

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island, Warwick