TAUNTON — A grieving Taunton family was further torn apart on Thanksgiving eve, as a grandmother was jailed on child endangerment charges in the drowning of her 18-month-old granddaughter in a bathtub last year.
Nance Rivera, 52, was arraigned in Taunton District Court on Wednesday and charged with two counts of reckless endangerment of a child and held on $2,500 bail, said Gregg Miliote, spokesman for Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter. A not-guilty plea was entered on Rivera’s behalf , Miliote said.
The incident has splintered the family during a yearlong roller coaster of grief and anger, said Rivera’s son, Kyle .
“The whole family is a mess,” said a weeping Kyle Rivera outside the courtroom. “I want to be there for my sister; I want to be there for my mother. I’m not picking sides; I want to be there for both.”
Rivera, the maternal grandmother of Aylah Reed, was babysitting the toddler and an 8-year-old niece on Oct. 21 of last year while her daughter, Joselyn Principe, went to a job interview. Rivera was giving Aylah a bath, but left her alone with the niece while she went downstairs to answer the phone, according to court records.
Rivera was on the phone for several minutes and when she turned around, she ran into her niece at the bottom of the stairs, who asked her to call her mother to see if she could stay overnight, which she did.
After the call, Rivera went back up the stairs calling her granddaughter's name, but got no response. She found the toddler floating face up in the tub.
Aylah remained in critical condition for about six weeks, before dying on Dec. 5. The official cause of death was accidental drowning.
Rivera was living in Principe’s DeWert Avenue home at the time of the incident.
Distraught family members are calling Rivera’s actions that afternoon a tragic case of poor judgment.
“It’s a tragic thing that has happened to my niece, losing a child, but the anger toward my sister shouldn’t have gone this far,” said Ybette Rivera, Principe’s aunt and Nance Rivera’s sister.
Ybette Rivera said a grieving and upset Principe stopped talking to her mother after the incident, as well as some family members who continue to have dealings with her.
“Honestly, it’s broken everybody in different directions,” Ybette Rivera said. “It was an accident.”
Nance Rivera has been haunted with guilt since the drowning, coping by attending Bible retreats, seeing a counselor, and taking medication, Kyle Rivera said.
But it was Rivera’s lengthy record — 12 pages long with 63 court defaults — that led Judge Kevan J. Cunningham to agree with state prosecutors that Rivera should be held on bail. According to court records, Rivera has several probation violations and has fraudulently used aliases or false identifications.
After a lengthy investigation into the toddler’s death, it was determined two weeks ago that there was probable cause for Rivera to be charged, Miliote said. If convicted, Rivera faces a maximum 2½ years per count in prison.
Kyle Rivera said his mother does not deserve to be jailed.
“I wish everybody had time and just cooled down and then maybe after a few years they can talk to each other, or maybe not,” he said. “I just wish time would heal all this.”Globe correspondent Melissa M. Werthmann contributed to this report. Katheleen Conti can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.