Steve Helling
March 12, 2018 11:22 AM

 

An Oregon babysitter has been sentenced to more than 21 years in prison for drugging seven children in her unlicensed day care center so she could go to the tanning salon, PEOPLE confirms.

January Neatherlin, 32, pleaded guilty last month to 11 counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment and one count of third-degree assault. On Friday, a judge sentenced her to 21 years and four months in prison.

Neatherlin tearfully apologized in court, telling families she had failed them and let them down.

Neatherlin was arrested in 2017 after authorities found the children unattended.  A Deschutes County Grand Jury indicted her on 76 counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree and 38 counts of recklessly endangering another person.

Under the plea agreement, Neatherlin admitted to her crimes and several charges were dropped.

“Nothing is more precious than the safety and security of our children,” Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said in a statement at the time. “If the allegations against Ms. Neatherlin are proven in court I will seek the maximum penalty authorized by law.”

According to her indictment, which was obtained by PEOPLE, Neatherlin allegedly left children unattended on eight occasions in March 2017. She left them inside her home in Bend, Oregon, where she operated an unlicensed childcare business called Little Giggles Daycare services.

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office

Police began investigating Neatherlin after they received an anonymous tip that she was allegedly leaving the children home alone. A subsequent surveillance team watched Neatherlin drive off from her house two hours after parents dropped off their kids. Officials followed her to a local tanning salon.

“We confirmed she didn’t have any children with her at that point,” Bend Police Department Lt. Clint Burleigh told PEOPLE last year.

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Lt. Burleigh says there was another surveillance team parked outside Neatherlin’s house.

“We still had a team on the house — and based on the tip and her leaving, we knocked on the house and entered the house to make sure the kids were okay,” he says. “We did find seven children within the residence.”

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An attorney for Neatherlin did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment.

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