State shuts down unlicensed day care where baby died

Bishop says baby who died in home was family member

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Homicide detectives and the Florida Department of Children and Families are investigating after a 5-month-old girl was found unconscious Thursday afternoon in what authorities described as an unlicensed home day care facility.

The baby was taken to St. Vincent's Medical Center South, but she couldn't be revived.

A cease and desist order was delivered to the home from DCF on Friday afternoon, ordering the day care to close. DCF officials said parents of the children in the home were being notified.

News4Jax learned that Bishop Cleo Bentley Jr. of Natural Born Truth Ministry lives in the home on Cumberland Station Drive, which is in a neighborhood off Sunbeam Road between Philips Highway and San Jose Boulevard.

Bentley, who wasn't home when the baby was found unresponsive, handed News4Jax a handwritten note outside the home Friday that read:

"This situation is tragic and our hearts are broken as it affects all of us.
This is a family member of ours, and we're going through the grieving process.
We would ask you all to respect our privacy during this time concerning this matter."

DCF secretary Mike Carroll issued a statement, saying: "The loss of this young child is absolutely heartbreaking."

"Although our agency has had no prior involvement with this baby, we are conducting two separate investigations in an effort to find out what went wrong; both a death investigation and an investigation into claims that the home was operating as an unlicensed child care facility are currently being conducted," Carroll said. "We will continue to work with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office as we learn more about this tragedy."

Police were called to the house after the baby was found not breathing on a bed just after 3:30 p.m. Thursday.  

The homeowner and her 17-year-old daughter were watching eight children in the home, authorities said. The homeowner had gone out to run errands and the girl went to check on the infant, who was taking a nap, and realized that the baby was not breathing, police said.

"There was one adult here at the time when the infant died. There was one teenager here. The adult had left for a bit. The child passed away while the teenager was here," JSO Sgt. Jay Farhart said. “There was a 17-year-old who went to check on the baby and change the diaper. And she realized something wasn’t right, immediately started CPR, contacted 911. They gave her instructions on how to do CPR. She is extremely upset.” 

An autopsy was to be conducted Friday to determine a cause of death, but Farhat said no foul play is suspected.

DCF said the agency has never been called to the home before.

Kiet Chau, who knows the family, had good things to say about them.

“They are very nice, good neighbors. Sometimes when we leave, they may watch the house for us and everything, make sure that nothing happens,” Chau said. “They are good people.”

He said he was shocked to hear that a baby died at the home.

“It's horrible. It is a terrible thing to happen. It's very unfortunate,” Chau said. “My thoughts are with them. My prayers are with them. Hopefully it gets better.”

"They keep to themselves. We would say hello to them every once in a while. But other than that, they were really nice people," neighbor Marcus Stacks said of the family.

Stacks said he's also upset about the incident.

"My heart goes out to them. I've never experienced anything like this, and I couldn't tell you how they feel,” Stacks said. “It's terrible.”

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