Woman jailed in mistreatment case

Leri A. Vela will serve 30 days in jail for failing to get timely treatment for a boy who became ill at her house.

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WALLA WALLA -- A woman who earlier pleaded guilty to failing to get timely medical help for a 16-year-old boy who overdosed on prescription medication last fall was handed a 30-day jail sentence Monday afternoon in Superior Court.

Leri A. Vela, 40, of 509 E. Pine St., technically was ordered to serve 360 days in the County Jail, but Judge Donald W. Schacht suspended 330 days of the sentence on condition she commit no further crimes.

Vela told Schacht before he imposed the sentence she didn't know the boy was in such medical danger when he became ill in early October. "I wasn't aware of what was happening," Vela said. "If I could change it, I would."

Her attorney, Jim Barrett, asked that all of the jail time be suspended. But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Mulhern said the 30 days she was recommending "is probably pretty light."

"I am very disturbed by the facts in this case," she told Schacht. "This young man was very close to dying ... This was a real touch-and-go situation."

Vela pleaded guilty Aug. 6 to the gross-misdemeanor charge of third-degree criminal mistreatment, admitting she acted negligently in not providing necessary health care for the boy who became ill. He reportedly had argued with his parents Oct. 4, so left and went to stay at Vela's then-residence on West Maple Street.

He reportedly told some of the people there, including Vela, he had taken three prescription drugs not prescribed to him. He passed out early the next morning, police said.

When Vela took the boy to Providence St. Mary Medical Center the afternoon of Oct. 6, he was comatose and his condition was life-threatening, according to authorities.

Mulhern told Schacht on Monday that officials are concerned by the number of juveniles at Vela's house.

But the boy -- who has recovered -- and others spoke in support of Vela and her efforts to help youths. "If it wasn't for Leri, I'd probably be dead right now," the boy said. "She saved my life. I don't think this is fair to her."

Vela initially was charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment -- a felony -- which alleged she recklessly harmed the boy by withholding necessary health care. Had she been convicted of that charge, she would have faced a prison term of 31-41 months.

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