Max was rushed to a hospital, but died the following day of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen. The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, which monitors childcare centers, ordered Thompson’s center closed and revoked her license.
On Friday, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Thompson on two counts of second degree murder and two counts of cruelty to children in the second degree in the death of Max, according to the district attorney’s office. Late Thursday night, Thompson was arrested and booked in to the Fulton County jail. She is expected to make her first court appearance Friday.
Prior to the second degree murder law, those accused in similar crimes were likely charged with involuntary manslaughter, which allows a maximum prison sentence of 10 years on a conviction. The sentence for a second degree murder conviction ranges from 10 to 30 years.
Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) said he wrote the bill after seeing discrepancies in how cases were handled. Coomer, a lawyer, has handled criminal and civil cases and has worked as a prosecutor.
“We had this system where, county to county, you were getting different treatment for people that committed the same exact act,” Coomer said Thursday night.
In some previous cases, felony murder was too harsh but manslaughter not harsh enough, Coomer said.
“Prosecutors needed a tool that would adequately fit the circumstances,” he said.
Although Atlanta police have not charged anyone under the new law, it is one that will be considered in future child death investigations, according to Capt. Paul Guerrucci, commander of the homicide unit.
“The key word on second degree murder, as it relates to a child, there has to be criminal neglect,” Guerrucci said.
A trial date for Thompson has not yet been scheduled.