JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A judge Thursday ordered the 56-year-old co-owner of a Westside day care center held on $75,000 bond and was ordered to have no contact with children once he was released.
Darryl Ewing is charged with child neglect in the death of a 4-month-old baby who died Wednesday after she was left in a van parked in the sun on Wednesday.
On Saturday morning, Darryl Ewing, posted bond and was released from the Duval County jail.
Police responded to a call about an unresponsive baby at the Ewing's Love and Hope Preschool and Academy on Lenox Avenue just after 1 p.m. A worker found the infant still in a child safety seat inside the van, where it had been parked since picking up children that morning. The baby was taken to Wolfson Children's Hospital, but she could not be revived.
Ewing, the day car care's co-owner, was placed into a patrol car early in the police investigation and booked into the Duval County jail at 8:18 p.m. on a charge of child neglect.
"Tragically, today a family has just been notified of the gut-wrenching loss of their precious baby girl," Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell said. "DCF immediately opened a joint child death and child care licensing investigation in coordination with law enforcement. We will continue to support this family as they mourn the loss of their baby girl."
DCF ordered an emergency suspension of the center's license because it was not aware the business was transporting children, which requires extra licensing to ensure the vehicle and the driver meet state standards.
"Whoever the inspector was told them the van was inoperable," said State Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.
The center was caring for around 14 children, and no others were injured, police said. DCF said all the parents were notified the center's license was being suspended.
While the center has held a valid license with DCF since 2016 and inspectors have not found any Class I violations in its quarterly inspections, the agency said it didn't know the day care center was transporting children, so it never monitored transportation standards.
Investigators said they learned Darryl Ewing drove the van that picked up the infant and other children earlier Wednesday morning and no other employees were on the van. According to detectives, the van arrived at the day care about 8:25 a.m. and children were offloaded and taken into the center.
Investigators said Darryl Ewing then parked the van in front of the day care and left the vehicle unattended with the 4-month-old still strapped in her car seat in the third row of the van.
At 1:03 p.m., according to the Sheriff's Office, the infant's mother called to make after-school arrangements for all of her children and it was discovered the baby had never been checked into the day care. Police said day care employees went to the van and discovered the infant still strapped in her child seat, unresponsive, and called emergency services.
Throughout the afternoon, the building was surrounded by police tape, officers, evidence technicians and homicide detectives, including the JSO chief of investigations.
News4Jax meteorologists estimated that the temperature inside an enclosed vehicle parked in the sun at midday Wednesday could have reached 123 degrees.
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According to the Sheriff's Office, further investigation revealed the Darryl Ewing was responsible for maintaining a separate driver’s log documenting all children that are placed onto the van, which was separate from the parental log signed by parents. Detectives viewed the driver’s log, which they said showed Darryl Ewing had logged in two of the infant's siblings, but not the infant.
Police said they learned, based on interviews with other day care center employees, that it is the van driver’s responsibility to check and make sure children are offloaded from the van at the day care center.
"It was determined the suspect’s actions (and lack thereof) failed to provide the victim with the necessary supervision and provide services to protect the victim’s physical health, all which was essential to the victim’s well-being and contributed to the death of the victim," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Darryl Ewing refused to talk with detectives when he was taken to the police station to be interviewed and that's when he was arrested. Police identified him as the co-owner of the day care center, though the day care's website lists Darryl Ewing as the director.
Duval County jail records show he has been arrested at least four previous times.
The state said will be immediately suspending the day care center's license suspension because it wasn't aware children were being transported.
While the center has a valid license with DCF since 2016 and inspectors have not found any Class I violations in its quarterly inspections, the agency said it didn't know the day care center was transporting children, so it never monitored transportation standards.
The state said parents have already been contacted to let them know the center's license is being pulled.
The other owner of the business, Gloryian Ewing was arrested 18 months ago on two counts of child abuse. While those charges involved her own teenage children -- police said they were beaten with an extension cord -- she was arrested at the day care center in December 2017.
After Gloryian Ewing, 51, (shown in 2017 Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo) completed a pretrial intervention, the charges were dropped.
DCF records show the center's license was not affected by the owner's legal troubles. The center had no violations in its last three quarterly inspections by the DCF -- most recently on April 15.
The last time inspectors found any issues at the facility was last July, when the report noted a lack of documentation of worker training and outdoor equipment, and field trip forms were not available for review. Since the center has been open, the facility has received two Class II and 13 Class II violations -- both less serious than Class I violations.
A woman who lives in the neighborhood didn't want to give her name, but said her children used to attend this day care center and her heart breaks for the baby’s family.
"Luckily they were grade-school age, but they were left on that same day care van," the woman told News4Jax. "It's sad. I just wish that day care was shut down. It really, it's not the best day care."
Another woman who works at a different child care center calls it a tragedy.
"It’s just heartbreaking right now to know that a child has lost its life," Lisa Brown said. "Just coming to day care and being taken care of and not returning home. I think about my own grandkids."
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