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Jacksonville police: Child left in locked day care van, owner arrested

Owner of Westside day care charged with child neglect

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owner of a Westside day care was arrested on a charge of child neglect after a child was left in a locked van on Friday, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

According to an arrest report, the child’s mother went to the Alpha Omega Learning Center on Hyde Park Road about 5 p.m. to pick him up and overheard a staffer tell Marieka Richards, who JSO identified as the owner of the day care, that the boy wasn’t in the day care. Richards assured the mother that the boy was there because she’d taken his bookbag off his back, the report said. A few minutes later, the boy entered the day care. According to the report, he was “sweating profusely, with bloodshot eyes and breathing hard, with his blue T-shirt completely wet from sweat.”

The boy told JSO, “I was in the car, locked,” according to the arrest report. He told police was inside the minivan for “a long time,” “it was very hot,” and he was “banging on the windows and yelling for help,” the report said. Police said they figured he had been in the van for at least two hours before he managed to pull open the doors to get out. Richards admitted to police she checked the van but didn’t see the boy in there. The officer who inspected the van noted the windows were tinted, and a visual check from outside the van might miss a child who’s on the floor sleeping or hiding.

The temperature at the time was 86 degrees with partly cloudy skies, according to the arrest report. There was no estimated temperature listed inside the van.

The boy was checked by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and medically cleared.

Richards, 41, is now out of jail on bond.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.