MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Four daycare workers are facing manslaughter charges for the death of a 5-year-old boy. Christopher Gardner, Jr. was left in the back of a van at Ascent Children's Healthcare for more than nine hours Monday.
Police say this tragedy could have been prevented. According to the police report, the woman claimed they checked the van, but police say that's not what happened.
There was no comment from one daycare worker as she turned herself in.
Van driver Felicia Phillips, monitor Pamela Robinson, transportation supervisor Wanda Taylor, and safety inspector Kendra Washington are all facing charges.
“These people all had active hands, in part, in the conduct that led to this tragedy,” says West Memphis Police Captain Joe Baker.
Police say Washington admitted to not doing a secondary safety check, and Taylor signed a chart saying Gardner was checked into school, when in fact he was still sitting in the van.
“Ms. Taylor admitted to signing the child into school even though she never physically saw the child."
By law, the vans are required to have safety alarms. To turn them off, employees are supposed to walk thru the van so they can verify all children are off. In this case, the alarm worked, but, Baker says, “Rather than go through the van, they would get out, open the rear door, and disarm the buzzer from outside the van.”
As for the child's mother, she tells Local 24 she is relieved criminal charges have been filed. She said she was too sick to go on camera, but is grateful charges were filed.
“There's no words to describe it. It's a tragedy. But the big thing is it's a tragedy that could have been prevented,” says Baker. “We did some reenactments and point of view shots, and don't see how, if they had done their secondary checks, there was any way possible they could have missed this child in the van.”
So far two of the four people charged have turned themselves in. They are being held without bond until court on Monday.
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