An Oregon woman who has been a midwife for four decades is accused of illegally delivering at least two babies in Kennewick.
Sherry Lee Dress, 69, allegedly practiced in the Mid-Columbia without a valid Washington license, and falsified the birth certificates to say the babies were born in Oregon.
Dress, who lives in John Day, Ore., was charged this month with two counts — a gross misdemeanor and a felony — in Benton County Superior Court.
This is not the first time Dress has faced criminal charges for delivering babies in Southeastern Washington.
Last May, she admitted practicing midwifery without a license in Walla Walla County District Court.
Dress was sentenced for the misdemeanor to 364 days in county jail with all of it suspended on the condition she paid her court costs and fines and stayed violation-free during her two-year probation period.
That case came almost one year after a Walla Walla couple said it was Dress’ bad practices that resulted in the stillbirth of their full-term son, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported last year.
The woman labored for more than 50 hours at home, most of the time under Dress’ direction, before the midwife called for outside medical help, the U-B reported. The baby died from a prolonged labor with inadequate oxygen.
Coroner Richard Greenwood told the U-B that he believed the infant would have lived if the midwife had made different care decisions for the mother.
Dress’s two-year probation began May 25 of last year and included a condition the midwife have no similar violation of the law during that time, Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said today.
The court imposed 364 days in jail, suspending all of them on condition Dress complete conditions of the judgment. She was fined $5,000, with $4,000 suspended, court costs of $243, and 24 months probation.
The births for which she faces the new Benton County charges occurred before she was sentenced in the Walla Walla case. Therefore, Nagle said, she did not violate conditions of her the Walla Walla County sentence.
Dress was never charged with the baby’s death, only for unlicensed midwifery.
“We charged everything we could under the law and based on the facts presented,” Nagle said.
The Walla Walla and Benton County births in question all happened after Washington’s secretary of health issued a permanent cease-and-desist order against Dress in November 2013.
Sharon Moysiuk, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health, told the Tri-City Herald on Monday that Dress has never been licensed in Washington.
The Oregon Health Authority’s website shows that Dress’ midwife license was first issued in September 2004. It expired in September 2015 and was not renewed because of violations of unprofessional conduct.
The revocation order by Oregon’s Health Licensing Office cited two births in Pasco and three in Walla Walla in which Dress filed birth certificates saying the babies were born in Canyon City, Ore. Those babies were born in 2014 and 2015.
Dress’ professional Facebook page says she is a certified professional midwife and a licensed direct-entry midwife.
She started her career as a nurse in a San Diego hospital, focusing on obstetrics and emergency room care, her professional Facebook page says.
The two new Benton County charges against her are for practicing a profession without a license.
Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire said the law requires that the first charge is filed as a gross misdemeanor, with any subsequent counts handled as a felony.
Dress is scheduled to appear in a Kennewick courtroom next week to enter a plea to the charges.
Tri-City Herald reporter Kristin M. Kraemer and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reporter Sheila Hagar contributed to this report.