Death of boy closes day care

06/07/2003

 

A Lancaster day-care center has closed one week after a 2-year-old boy in its care died after he being left in a hot van.

 

Officials with the state's child-care regulatory division said an agency investigator visiting Little Dudes and Daisies Daycare and Learning Center on Friday morning was told the center would close at the end of the day.

 

"That was personal decision they made, not a recommendation of the state," said Stacey Ladd, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.

 

Child-care workers at the center refused to comment Friday.

 

 

The boy, Alan D. Brown Jr., died Tuesday of heat-related injuries after he was trapped in a locked van at the center for more than 2 hours last week as temperatures reached 100 degrees outside. He and other children had returned from a pizza restaurant.

 

His funeral is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cliff View Church of Christ, 2424 Simpson Stuart Road in Dallas.

Despite the recent problems at the center on North Dallas Avenue, parent Jeanette Hill said she was sad to see the center shut its doors. Her 2-year-old daughter, Jirah, enjoyed the time she spent there, she said.

 

"If they was to stay open, she would still be here," said Ms. Hill, standing outside the center Friday afternoon.

Ms. Hill said she heard about the closing through the local news and drove to the center Friday to talk with child-care workers. She said she had no plans to send her daughter to another facility.

 

"They are really good people," she said. "I trust them."

 

Two of the center's child-care workers, Onetha Kizzee Conners, 42, and Jimmie Ree Smith, 47, have been charged with injury to a child. Ms. Conners is the center's director; her husband, Charles Conners Jr., is the owner.

Bail had been recommended for Ms. Conners and Ms. Smith at $1 million each, but their attorney, Craig Watkins, said Friday that it had been reduced to $10,000 each. That figure could not be confirmed Friday evening.

Mr. Watkins said his clients would surrender to police by Sunday.

 

"They want to go ahead and get the process over with," Mr. Watkins said. "They are still worried and heartbroken about what happened."

 

Lancaster police Sgt. Joe Hall said they are not actively trying to arrest the women because the two are recovering from serious health problems. Ms. Conners is suffering from shock, and Ms. Smith underwent an angioplasty for a heart condition, their attorney said.

 

"It's not appropriate to make them sit in jail while they wait to have a bail-reduction hearing," Sgt. Hall said. "They are not a continuing threat to the community. They're not a flight risk. We believe this is the most appropriate approach, and we stand by that decision."

 

Officials with the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services will continue to investigate the child-care center for possible abuse and neglect even though it has closed. Ms. Ladd said investigations normally take about 30 days.