D.A. to take day care death investigation to Grand Jury - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

D.A. to take day care death investigation to Grand Jury

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

September 29, 2008

LEE COUNTY, GA (WALB) - A grand jury will decide whether a former Lee County home day center operator will be charged with nine counts of child cruelty.

In February a four month old boy died at Barbara Ann Fuller's home day care.

No criminal charges were filed in his death, but now the D.A. will let the Grand Jury decide if the children being kept in that home were endangered by filthy conditions.

Southwestern Circuit District Attorney Cecilia Cooper said after looking at the photographs and evidence taken from Barbara Ann Fuller's home day following the death of a four month old boy there, she decided to bring the evidence before the Grand Jury.

Cooper said "No, it's not about the death of the four month old per say, as much as it is the conditions that all of the children that was caring for were in that day."

February 13th four month old Jace Hester was found not breathing in a back room of Fuller's home day care. The GBI ruled his death was an unexplained sudden infant death, and Investigators said there was no criminal negligence.

But the state agency that licenses day care centers found 16 major rule violations and revoked her registration. The state said Investigators found dog feces under the crib where Hester died, the carpet was urine soaked,  mold observed on the ceiling and doorway, and pet hair was found on the improper bedding the four month old was left on.

Cooper said "Just not safe, especially for small children." To the point of being criminal? Cooper said "Yes."

I went to Fuller's home Monday. She at first appealed the state revocation of her registration, but then surrendered it and closed her day care center. When I knocked, a woman cracked the door barely, and I asked for comment on today's developments. She said she knew nothing about the Grand Jury. Then a man opened the door. The man said "We have no comment."

Cooper said "If there's not something done about the conditions at that daycare, then there is a possibility they could allow here to register as a day care facility again, and children would again be put at risk."

Cooper said she will present nine cases of child cruelty, one for each child in the home the day of Jace Hester's death, to the Grand Jury October 27th.

Child cruelty in Georgia is a felony, and could bring a sentence up to ten years in prison for each count if indicted and convicted.

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