Mom pleads not guilty in boy’s death

Sareese M. Stewart was arraigned Thursday in Columbia County Court and pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of her 1-year-old son. Lance Wheeler/For Columbia-Greene Media

HUDSON — The mother of a 21-month-old Greenport boy Thursday pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree manslaughter in connection with the child’s death.

Sareese M. Stewart, 30, of Greenport, entered her plea to the charge, a class C felony, in Columbia County Court. Stewart has two other children.

Stewart, who wore a mask with a smiley face, sat quietly and said little during the proceedings, answering questions with yes or no.

Police found the child unresponsive in an apartment at 156 Ten Broeck Lane on June 23. The boy was later pronounced dead at Columbia Memorial Hospital, state police Public Information Officer Aaron Hicks said.

Hicks said Thursday he could not provide the cause of death.

Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka declined to comment on the cause of death Thursday, saying it pertains to evidence in the case.

The apartment where Stewart lived with her son, whose name has not been released, was condemned June 23 by Greenport Code Enforcement Officer Vincent Concra. Contractors cleaned and made repairs to the apartment in September.

Stewart’s attorney, Mark Portin, of Mark S. Portin Attorneys-at-Law of East Greenbush, and Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Ryan M. Carty spoke before the court proceeding and agreed to allowing Stewart to be released on her own recognizance because she voluntarily went to state police for processing.

Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols agreed with the attorneys’ assessment because Stewart has cooperated with the court since the investigation began in June.

“Although this is a qualifying offense under the bail statutes going into effect Jan. 1, 2020, the reality is Ms. Stewart has been under investigation for the better part of three months due to the unfortunate death of her infant,” Nichols said. “And she has appeared at every single appearance either virtually or now in person for arraignment on this criminal complaint and she has not ever to my knowledge failed to miss any appearance in court.”

“I believe she has been consistently in contact as permitted by orders of protection issued by this court on the family court component of the proceedings relevant to her other two children,” Nichols said.

Carty asked Nichols to issue an order of protection in the criminal case and Portin asked for the order of protection not be more restrictive than one issued in family court.

Portin asked for Stewart to be permitted to have controlled contact with her two children.

“It’s in the children’s best interest to have at least certain types of very controlled contact between mother and children,” Portin said.

Carty did not object and Nichols said the terms could be the same as the order of protection issued in family court.

Portin asked Nichols not to permit audio-video media coverage of the proceeding.

“This is closely aligned with family court and county court matters,” he said, adding Stewart’s daughter might see the video on television.

Juliette Crill, the daughter’s attorney for family court matters, agreed with Portin, adding the child’s classmates and classmates’ parents may also see the video.

“This is difficult enough for her,” Crill said.

The state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Livingston was assisted in the four-month investigation by the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office and the Columbia County Coroner’s Office, Hicks said.

A family court proceeding followed the criminal court proceeding. The next scheduled court date in the criminal case is Oct. 27 at 11:30 a.m.

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