Day care employee charged in 3-year-old's death; temp in van hit 144 degrees
Deborah St. Charles, 51, arrested in death of Myles Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando day care employee was arrested Thursday afternoon, several days after a 3-year-old boy was found dead after being left in a van for up to 11 hours.
Orlando police said Deborah St. Charles, 51, the driver of the Little Miracles day care van in which Myles Hill was found, is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
A judge on Friday ruled that St. Charles' bond would be $30,000. If she were to be released on bond, she would not be allowed to work at a child care or day care facility or have unsupervised contact with minors.
St. Charles cried during her appearance before the judge as her public defender tried to get her bond reduced.
"She can't afford bond," he said. "She's been a resident in Florida her entire life. Her family is here. It's too high for this charge."
The public defender said authorities did not provide a thorough investigation, adding that St. Charles' work history and relationships with co-workers and children at Little Miracles were not taken into consideration.
The state argued that $30,000 was an appropriate amount, and the judge agreed, although he said it's possible the dollar amount could be reduced at a future formal bond hearing.
Officials with the Department of Children and Families confirmed to News 6 on Thursday that St. Charles was not approved as a driver on the facility's roster.
Little Miracles Academy owner Audrey Thornton said Wednesday that St. Charles has been fired.
The arrest affidavit for St. Charles provided new details as to what led up to the toddler's death and the temperatures his little body would have been exposed to during the more than 11 hours he was trapped inside the van.
St. Charles picked Myles up from his great-grandmother's home at 7:42 a.m. Monday, placing him on the driver's side rear bench on the van. After picking up two more children, St. Charles drove to Little Miracles Academy II on West Colonial Drive and parked. She walked around the van to grab cleaning supplies out of the back of the van and the children got out of the van and walked into the day care with her, according to the report.
She assumed all of the children had gone into Little Miracles and did not perform a head count, St. Charles told police. St. Charles returned to the van and drove it to Little Miracles Academy I on Plymouth Avenue. When St. Charles parked the van, she received a phone call, and was on the phone when she grabbed her personal belongings and locked the van without looking around, the report shows.
St. Charles then went into the Plymouth Avenue day care to her classroom, worked her shift and went home around 6 p.m., she told police.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the boy was likely in the van since 9 a.m. when St. Charles locked the vehicle. Temperatures hit 93 degrees on Monday.
Orlando police crime scene investigators said the temperature inside the van, at noon, would have reached 133 degrees and by 3 p.m., 144 degrees. The "unbearable environment" caused Myles' death, according to the medical examiner, who determined his cause of death was hyperthermia.
Myles was found by another day care employee in the van outside Little Miracles Academy at 8:28 p.m., after the boy's great-grandmother called the day care to report that he hadn't been dropped off at home.
“This negligent act was committed with an utter disregard for the safety of the children she is responsible for transporting during the normal course of duties as a daycare service provider and driver of the childcare transport vehicle,” Det. Shane Overfield wrote in the arrest report about St. Charles.
The emergency suspension order filed Wednesday by the Department of Families and Children to close Little Miracles Academy, on Plymouth Avenue, where Myles died, as well as the facility's second Orlando location, places blame not only on St. Charles, but on the day care staff, who should have noticed he was missing.
Myles was marked “present” by staff at Little Miracle Academy II, which is a violation of DCF attendance record keeping, the report said.
The Honda Odyssey minivan was not equipped with carriers for children 3 years of age and younger, according to the DCF report, and the vehicle should not have transported children younger than 5.
St. Charles drove the van Monday morning with six children who were 11 years old and younger. The 11-year-old rode in the front passenger's seat, which should not have happened because of the airbag, which can injure a child, the DCF report said.
DCF officials wrote that the safety violations present “an immediate serious danger to the public health, safety and welfare,” of the children and the day care’s license should immediately be suspended.
"Our hearts are broken about the senseless loss of Myles and we will continue to support his family. We are conducting a thorough investigation and are assisting law enforcement with their criminal investigation. This facility was previously cited for not keeping proper paperwork. Based on the tragic circumstances of this case, both facilities have now been shut down. We will continue to aggressively act to keep kids safe and will hold anyone accountable who doesn’t follow the law," a DCF spokesman said.
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