Fugitive apprehended: babysitter on duty during child death arrested for probation violation

Fugitive apprehended: babysitter on duty during child death arrested for probation violation

Melissa Ringhardt, the babysitter on duty at the time of 5-year-old Vidor resident John “Johnny” Read’s accidental shooting death in October 2013, has been located and arrested by deputies of the Pope County Sheriff’s Department in Russellville, Arkansas, according to a news release from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Ringhardt, 20, was reportedly apprehended at about 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2 after the Pope County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip from a resident in the area who recognized Ringhardt, in spite of her changing her hair color. Information obtained from the Pope County Sheriff’s Department indicated she was taken into custody from a residence in the City of Russellville without incident.

Orange County issued a warrant for then-19-year-old Ringhardt in June of 2014 when she failed to report to her probation officer in April of 2014.  Her probation stemmed from charges related to Johnny Read’s death.

According to reports from the October 2013 incident, Read was in Ringhardt’s care when he picked up a loaded gun the woman had placed on a table and accidentally shot himself in the head. The child was pronounced dead at the scene. Ringhardt reportedly told police then that she had been walking around with the loaded gun in the waistband of her pants for protection before placing it on the table to take a nap after smoking marijuana earlier in the day. She was later charged with “abandoning or endangering a child,” a state jail felony.

Warrant deputies with Orange County believed Ringhardt could be in Arkansas or one of several other states. Deputies previously checked multiple locations within the state without success but eventually acheived her capture Oct. 2.

Ringhardt is being held without bond on a Motion to Revoke Probation for Endangering a Child. OCSO reports that Ringhardt will remain in custody at the Pope County Detention Center until arrangements are made to have her transported to the Orange County Corrections Facility in Orange.