Saturday, October 11, 2003

Day-care owners quit amid inquiry into death

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - The couple who ran an in-home day-care center where an 8-month-old suffocated in a crib last month say they are so devastated by the death that they are getting out of the child-care business.

Roni's Daylight and Nightlight Child Care co-operator Jim Rogers said he and his wife, Ravenna, are dropping their appeal of the state's emergency suspension of their child care license and are closing their Independence Road day-care center permanently.

Investigators say Leah Gabrielle Roark suffocated on Sept. 18 after her head got stuck between slats in an outdated crib after being left alone in a 70-square-foot closet that had been converted into a nursery.

"This has destroyed two families," he said. "We have to live through this, too. We loved her like one of our own. I see her every night in my sleep."

Police say the outdated portable crib didn't meet modern safety standards.

Leah got caught between crib slats that were three inches apart. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission calls for slats to be no more than 23/8 inches apart.

State officials say they might not have looked at the crib during their annual inspections because it was not in use and was possibly folded up in a closet of the home. Jim Rogers disputes the claim, saying that inspectors checked off on the crib.

Three years of state inspections do not indicate if the crib was examined.

"We will lobby for a Leah's Law, so nobody else will have to go through this," Rogers said. "They need to check every crib in every day care center to make sure they're up to standards."

A review of the inspection reports from the home show the day care had been cited for numerous deficiencies over the years, but none of the shortfalls were for dangerous cribs.

Rogers said the couple decided to close the business for good and drop their appeal largely because of his wife's emotional state over finding the baby's body.

He also said the Cabinet for Health Services did not give them enough time to prepare an appeal before a hearing set for Monday in Frankfort.

Detectives with Independence police, who are heading the criminal investigation into the death, said they have not decided whether to file charges.


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