Erin Lee Macke of Des Moines, Iowa, wanted to take a little vacation to Europe. Specifically, Erin wanted to visit some relatives in Germany. No big deal, right? Only problem was … she left her four children, all age 12 and under, home alone. With a loaded gun in the house. For eleven days.
On Wednesday, 20 September 2017, Macke boarded a plane for Germany, after asking neighbors to check on the kids during her absence. She had allegedly tried to get family members to come look after the children, but they were all busy, so … she decided that they would be fine on their own. The children are a pair of 12-year-old twins, and two younger girls, ages 6 and 7.
After the first night alone, one of the younger children called her father and told him that they were alone and that their mother had gone to Germany. The father, Matthew Macke, contacted police who immediately went to the home. When the officers arrived, they found the older twins preparing a meal, and one of the twins led police to a bedroom where the mother had left a gun and ammunition.
Although she had been gone only a day at that point, Macke had posted pictures of herself having a great time on Facebook.Police contacted Children’s Protective Services, and were able to contact Ms. Macke in Germany, at which point they told her that she needed to return immediately. Ms. Macke actually returned home six days later. She was obviously concerned about the welfare of her children. She was arrested as soon as her plane landed and charged with four counts of child endangerment and one count of giving a minor access to a gun. The judge was firm …
“You are to have no contact with them — direct, indirect, writing, phone, voice messaging, text messaging. No contact whatsoever. That includes going to the address.”
The father of the two younger children was granted primary custody of them. Macke filed an Alford plea. An Alford plea is similar to a plea of no contest, but is different in that the defendant admits that the evidence the prosecution has would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but maintains that he/she is innocent. As part of the plea bargain, the gun charge was dropped.
The case was decided last Thursday, when Macke was sentenced to two years’ probation. No prison time. She could have received the maximum penalty of two years per child, for a total of eight years in prison. Instead, she will never see the inside of a prison and will only have to report to a probation officer for two short years.
Macke’s attorney, Michael Oliver, acknowledged that his client made a mistake but told the court that she should be able to make amends and move on from it. “The drama that has surrounded this case has been fanned by the fathers in this case,” he said. Say what???
Polk County District Judge Carol Egly upheld Macke’s no-contact order with her children but said she believes “these children need to have some sort of direct contact with their mother as soon as possible.” The judge advised the attorneys to come up with an arrangement, requiring Macke to complete counseling, and then allow her to have contact with her children. Anybody want to lay odds that within a year, Macke has custody of her children again?