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Aunt recalls frantic phone call from sister on day boy was left in locked day care van

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, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

On Wednesday, News4Jax talked with the 5-year-old boy’s aunt, who identified herself as Tayda Smith. According to the police report, the child on Friday was believed to have been in the van for at least two hours before he managed to pull the doors open and get out.

Smith said she had gotten a call from her sister, who was hysterical after going to pick up her son.

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“I asked her what was going on. She was like that she had just left the day care, they couldn’t find (the boy),” Smith said.

According to the arrest report, the boy entered the day care from outside, “sweating profusely, with bloodshot eyes and breathing hard, with his blue T-shirt completely wet from sweat.”

“He told me, ‘Auntie, I was over there in that van and it was hot, my eyes were burning,’” Smith recalled.

News4Jax went to the day care for comment. A woman inside asked us to leave the property.

“Thirty to 45 minutes later, we could have been getting the wrong call,” Smith said. “That’s my biggest concern.”

Smith said the case has been reported to the Department of Children and Families. News4Jax has requested additional information from DCF.

The family said the boy is expected to recover, but that he is traumatized by what happened and is fearful of taking a long car ride.

About the Author:

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