Maria Rochart, founder of the now-defunct nonprofit New Horizons Family Center, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and her 9-year-old daughter was taken into child protective custody due to alleged neglect, officials said.
Rochart, who was widely known in the city for her work with children from low-income families, was released early Wednesday on her own recognizance in connection with allegedly driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.13, Glendale police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. The legal limit is 0.08.
Calls to Rochart, who also goes by the last name of Prieto, were not returned Thursday.
Police accompanied investigators from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to Rochart’s apartment on Western Avenue at about 5:55 p.m. after investigators were notified that she had been drinking alcohol all day and had driven her daughter to school.
Rochart told police she had been drinking alcohol since 6 a.m., but stopped at 2 p.m. She also denied driving her daughter to school while intoxicated, police said.
After interviewing neighbors at the apartment complex, investigators decided to remove Rochart’s daughter from the apartment and place her in protective custody, police said.
Officers returned a short time later to the apartment to get more information, but no one answered the door, according to police. That’s when neighbors told police they’d seen Rochart drive off in her 2012 Mercedes.
About six minutes later, Rochart returned and pulled into a parking spot, but police noticed that she appeared to be intoxicated.
According to police, Rochart told officers she went to her father’s home and admitted to drinking a bottle of alcohol before they contacted her.
Rochart was forced to shutter New Horizons in 2011 after accumulating an unsustainable debt load. Her handling of more than $1 million in federal funding for a proposed expansion was scrutinized after she spent $300,000 of it on predevelopment costs before the project had to be scrapped.
She also once served as Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s appointment to county Commission of Children and Families in 2010.
Rochart’s estranged husband and father of her daughter was killed in November 2010 after he fell from his motorcycle and was hit by another vehicle.
Rochart, who describes herself in advertisements as a medicine woman and healer, has since set up Beyond the Horizon — a self-help counseling business on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta.
She is scheduled to appear Dec. 8 in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Glendale.