YORK COUNTY, S.C. - Robert and Angela McCowie sat with their heads in their hands, hearing the tearful apology from a woman who was supposed to be caring for their son when he died.
Eighteen-month-old Chase McCowie was often watched during the day at an unlicensed day care in Fort Mill.
The day care did not advertise and was never registered with the South Carolina Department of Social Services as required by law. Most of the families there heard about it by word of mouth.
In March 2010, prosecutors said Christina Capobianco placed the toddler into one of her car seats and left him alone in a room for up to 30 minutes.
ARTICLE: Police Say Day Care Where Child Died Was Unlicensed
The car seat was the wrong size, he was not fastened in properly and it's believed he got tangled in a strap and suffocated.
Prosecutor Erin Joyner said the toddler managed to wiggle down in the seat until he got caught in the strap across his chest.
That day, sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 hangup call at the home on Haurent Avenue in Fort Mill. When they arrived, other adults were trying to resuscitate the little boy.
Capobianco was watching six children at the time not including three of her own. She was being paid to watch the other children at her home.
York County sheriff's deputies charged her with operating an unlicensed day care, but she did not immediately face any charges related to the child's death.
Prosecutors called for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to get involved and the lengthy investigation is why it took more than four years for the case to reach court.
SLED did not find evidence for any felony charges against Ccapobianco. She was instead charged with a misdemeanor of cruelty to children. Capobianco pled guilty in court on Monday.
Judge Lee Alford sentenced her to 3½ years of probation for the charges, under a negotiated sentence.
She broke down in tears and apologized to the McCowie family.
"Not a day goes by when I don't pray and think about the family. I'm just so sorry it all happened," she said.
As part of the plea deal, Capobianco cannot watch any children except her own during her probation. She has moved to New York and the sentence will be in effect there.
Assistant solicitor Erin Joyner said the McCowie family understands they must live with the charges that they were able to bring.
"I don't think they're content. They're still very sad but they understand the limits of the evidence," she said.
The McCowie family did not want to speak after the court appearance.
Joyner said she hoped the case would still send a message about the danger of improperly placing a child in a car seat, and leaving him or her unattended for any length of time.
Eyewitness News learned that the family did file a wrongful death lawsuit against Capobianco in 2013. It was settled out of court in the amount of roughly $25,000 not including legal fees.