Toddler dies after 7 hours in day-care van

Police arrest owner on charges of unlawful conduct toward child

May 18, 2007

Columbia, SC

Ten-month-old Javon Simpson’s mother put him in a car seat behind the driver’s seat of a day-care van a little after 7 a.m. Friday when the van picked him up at his home.

Seven hours later, the baby was still inside the parked van, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said.

The baby was pronounced dead at about 3:20 p.m. at Palmetto Health Richland, Watts said.

Columbia day-care owner Willie Edward Ritter, 63, owner of W.E. Ritter day-care center at 1833 Columbia College Drive was arrested Friday, charged with unlawful conduct toward a child, Columbia police said.

They said he unintentionally left the baby inside the van.

Watts said it appears Javon, of Broad River Terrace Apartments, was never taken out of the day-care van that picked him up from his Lucius Road apartment complex about 7:15 a.m..

His mother, whom authorities did not identify, put him in the car seat behind the driver’s seat, Watts said.

Ritter was driving the van, police spokeswoman Lauren Leach said.

EMS personnel responded to the day-care center about 2:45 p.m. on a report of a “patient unconscious,” according to Richland County EMS spokesman George Rice.

The patient was taken to the hospital in cardiac arrest, Rice said.

The boy had a “pretty significant temperature,” Watts said.

Watts suspects heat was a factor in the death, although he didn’t know how the temperature was inside the van.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.