Update, 3:40 p.m. Monday: Coroner: Baton Rouge toddler left unattended in day care van died of intense heat exposure
Two employees of an unlicensed north Baton Rouge day care center were arrested Friday after a 22-month-old child was found dead in a facility vehicle, forgotten there by the employees, police said.
Shelia Newman, 47, and April Wright, 26, were both booked into East Baton Rouge Parish prison on counts of negligent homicide. Newman, who owns the day care at 6345 Prescott Road, also was booked on an obstruction of justice count for instructing Wright to lie to police about where the child was found, according to police.
Although Newman recently lost her day care license for “problems with ratio of children to attendants,” she and Wright were caring for at least 15 children on Friday at the day care, according to their arrest warrants. Louisiana law requires facilities that care for more than seven unrelated children to be licensed by the Department of Education.
The child, 22-month-old Angel Green, was found in a van about two hours after Newman and Wright drove 15 children, including Green, to lunch at the nearby Jehovah Ministry, police said.
When they returned, the women reportedly thought all of the children were unloaded, according to the affidavits for their arrest.
While the children were taking a nap, the police reports say, Newman left the center to pick up two more children, with Green apparently still inside the vehicle. Newman left again to run errands after dropping off the other two children, then returned and parked the van at her home, 6330 Prescott Road, which is across the street from the day care, according to the affidavits.
It wasn’t until the children awoke from naps after the second trip that day care center workers realized Green was missing. She was located unresponsive in the vehicle, the affidavits state.
Temperatures in Baton Rouge reached 92 degrees on Friday. Green was taken to a fire station down the street from the day care and later to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. Green, who died later at the hospital, had a core temperature of 108 degrees, police said.
Newman told Wright to lie to police and tell them she found Green in the backyard, and to pour water on the back steps to make it look like she had cleaned up vomit, according to the warrant for their arrests.
Attempts to contact Green’s mother Saturday were unsuccessful. No one answered the door at her apartment, and the few neighbors who were outside the complex had no information about where she was or what had happened to her daughter.
Green’s is the fourth heatstroke death of a child left in a vehicle in the U.S. in 2015, according to data at noheatstroke.org that is compiled by Jan Null, a California meteorologist.
A case similar to Friday’s occurred locally in 2009 when employees of the defunct Wanda’s Kids World in Baton Rouge left 3-year-old D’Myion McElveen in a van for six hours, resulting in her death. The day care center’s owner, Wanda Connor, and two employees were indicted on one count each of negligent homicide in 2011.
The state revoked Connor’s license for the fourth time on the day after the child’s death.
In 2014, 30 children nationwide died of heatstrokes because they were left in hot cars by their parents or caretakers, according to Null’s research.