JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 46-year-old Jacksonville woman is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child by culpable negligence in connection with the drowning death of a 2-year-old boy who was pulled from a day care pool last week.
Jan Marie Buchanan is also charged with operating a family day care home without a license.
She's being held in the Duval County jail without bail.
Jacksonville police said Steven Spurlock was found floating and unresponsive in a backyard pool at the unlicensed home day care center in the 8300 block of Ireland Drive on the Westside on May 21. He died at a hospital three days later.
Buchanan's neighbor, Gregory Johnson, was quick to come to her defense. "When people are trying to make a living, when things go wrong, we want to punish them. There are people that brought their kids to this lady. She must've been a good provider and watched over them."
Department of Children and Families spokesman John Harrell said 13 children were enrolled in the day care, though seven were being cared for in the house the day Spurlock was pulled from the pool. Three of those children were 1 year old, three were 3-4 years old, and Spurlock was 2 years old.
According to a police report, Buchanan told police she had taken all of the children swimming for about an hour and then took them all inside the home. She said she closed but did not lock the gate that leads to the pool from the back porch. Buchanan said she closed and locked the sliding glass door that leads to the back porch but failed to secure the lock at the top of the door, which is out of the reach of children.
Buchanan said while she was tending to the infant children, Spurlock was playing on the floor in view of her, according to the report. She said the boy left her view, and about 10 to 15 minutes passed before she finished with the infants.
Buchanan told police she looked around the house for Spurlock when she saw the sliding glass door was ajar, about 6-7 inches. Buchanan said she walked onto the back porch and saw the boy floating in the pool. She said she pulled him out and tried to resuscitate him until rescuers arrived.
The next day, according to the report, investigators inspected the pool area and saw a pool alarm, which sounds outside and inside the home when the surface of the water is disturbed. Buchanan told police the alarm was disabled the night before because of a rain storm that had disturbed the surface of the pool water and activated the alarm. The alarm was not turned back on the day of the drowning before or after Buchanan took the children swimming, police said.
According to the police report, Buchanan admitted she was negligent by not locking the top lock of the sliding glass door because the 3- and 4-year-old children know how to unlock and open the door. Police said Buchanan also admitted to not locking the gate leading to the pool and not activating the pool alarm. She also then told investigators the pool alarm had not been activated since May 4, according to the police report.
On his Facebook page, the father of the 2-year-old Steven Spurlock also defended Buchanan just one day after the tragedy stating, "Ignore any negative news about them." He defended Buchanan and said it was a freak accident.
DCF issued a cease and desist order for the day care, Kiddie Heaven, last Wednesday.
As for home day cares, state law says residents can take care of their own children, children from their immediate family, and children from one other family. Any others requires a license.
Crime Analyst Ken Jefferson said, "I'm not saying that this couldn't happen anywhere, it could, even if you are licensed and insured, but even if you know someone, it doesn't give them full range to do this sort of thing. You've got to do your homework. Trust, but verify."
To find certified day cares in the area go to www.MyFLfamilies.com
Click on programs and then click childcare.