JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man charged with child neglect in the death of a 4-month-old girl who was left in a day care van for five hours in May 2019, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning. Darryl Ewing was sentenced to three years of house arrest followed by 18 years of probation. He’ll also have to spend the weekend in jail every year on the anniversary of her death.
The baby, 4-month-old Brooklyn Blount, was found unconscious in a van outside the Westside day care center. Investigators said firefighters could not revive her and she died at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Jacksonville police said she had been in the van for five hours.
Ewing, who was co-owner of the Westside day care facility called Ewing’s Love and Hope Preschool and Academy, accepted responsibility for the baby’s death from the beginning and said it was a “terrible, terrible mistake,” the prosecutor told Judge Gilbert Feltel.
“Mr. Ewing just simply forgot,” said assistant state attorney Chris Huband. “It was a terrible mistake, albeit a culpably negligent one, but Mr. Ewing has stated a great amount of remorse.”
Huband noted that the daycare was not licensed to transport children at the time.
Ewing, 58, did not say anything colorful other than when prompted by the judge and did not add anything outside of “yes, I understand” and “no, your honor.”
The family of the victim did not seek jail time for Ewing but has filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming him and the now-closed Ewing’s Love and Hope Preschool, seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages.
“I never would’ve thought in one million years that would be ultimately something that would’ve taken her away from me,” Brooklyn’s mother, Lancia Isaac, told News4Jax. She said the case was still surreal and no sentence would bring closure to her family.
“Whether it was a year or 50 years, no matter what the sentence would be, it will never bring Brooklyn back,” she said. “I’m kind of numb to it right now. I’m still trying to accept the fact that hey this is actually taking place.”
Father Brandon Blount said it should be a lesson to take a closer look at all day care centers and schools. He said he was devastated but may eventually forgive Ewing.
“At some point, yes,” Blount said.
Investigators at the time said Ewing had picked up the infant and other children that morning in the day care’s van and no other employees were on the van. According to detectives, the van arrived at the center about 8:25 a.m. that morning. Police said the infant girl was found still in a child safety seat inside the van at the business on Lenox Avenue about 1 p.m, nearly five hours after the vehicle used to pick up children was parked out front.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, further investigation revealed the 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.
“It was Lancia’s call five hours later that finally alerted the daycare to Brooklyn’s absence,” said attorney Michael Pajcic, who represents Isaac and Blount in their civil suit against Ewing and his daycare. “She calls at 1 o’clock to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to come pick up my daughter,’ and at that moment there’s a panic in the background, the phone receiver is just left on the counter and she can hear confusion.”
In addition to house arrest, the judge ordered special conditions for Ewing’s sentence:
- No association of any employment or involvement in the operation of day care or child care business
- No unsupervised contact with children under 10 years old
- Must pay $500 per year to Safe Kids Worldwide or a similar organization that’s geared towards preventing child injury or death for the duration of 18-year probation
- Provide testimony to Safe Kids Worldwide at least one time (but is encouraged to provide testimony or continued involvement with organization every year)
- 500 community service hours
- $100 restitution to the victim’s family
- If no new law violations are committed after 15 years, early termination will be allowed on the probation
- Must serve a weekend in Duval County jail every year after the anniversary of the child’s death May 22
- Pay $518 in court costs and $150 for public defender fees