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Parent, caretakers questioned in baby's death

Riverdale police are questioning the mother and caretakers of a 6-month-old child, who was brought to Southern Regional Medical Center "dead on arrival," early Tuesday morning.

According to police, the couple providing care for the child was allegedly running an illegal day-care center out of a Riverdale motel room.

Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson said that shortly after 5 a.m., on Tuesday, a 32-year-old male and a 40-year-old female brought the unresponsive child to the hospital. The 6-month-old apparently died of a pulmonary embolism, he said.

"The story from the caretaker is that she bathed the baby last night and put it to bed," Patterson said. "The caretaker awoke at 4:45 a.m., [on Tuesday] and when she found the baby, it was unresponsive. At that point, instead of calling 911, she awakened her husband and asked him what to do. He then proceeded to tell her not to call 911 and get the other children dressed to go to the hospital. The child had rigor mortis by the time he got to the hospital."

"At this point, it doesn't look like there is going to be any charges associated with foul play in the death of the child," Patterson continued. "The child [apparently] suffered from bronchitis and died from an embolism, which burst in the baby's lung. The baby basically drowned in its own fluids. We are still waiting for the final toxicology report from the medical examiner."

Patterson said the baby died at the Hometown Inn at 6231 Highway 85 in Riverdale, where the couple allegedly cared for four other children, ages 1, 3, 4, and 10. Only the 10-year-old — the son of the female caretaker — was related to either of the caretakers, he said.

"The caretaker and her husband were apparently operating a 24-7 day-care facility, that had even been advertised on Craigslist," said Patterson. "That's how they came into the care of this 6-month-old child. It's [the room is] a typical two-bed motel room. It's smaller than my office. They all slept in the room, somewhere."

According to Patterson, the couple was in the process of moving to Riverdale from another location, and had stayed at the motel for "two or three days" with the five children in their care. He said the couple had been caring for the 6-month-old "for at least three months, off and on," and were with the baby 24 hours a day, between Feb. 12 and 23.

"Where they were before Hometown Inn, we are not certain," Patterson said. "This is probably what they do. They are running what we believe to be an illegal day-care facility. Running an illegal day-care is a volition of state law and city ordinance. They're both subject to charges."

He said the female caretaker was being questioned by police on Tuesday, as well as the mother of the baby, who was working at the time of the baby's death. The male caretaker, he said, was arrested and is being held at the Clayton County Jail, due to a previous charge of child neglect in Carroll County, for which authorities had issued an arrest warrant.

"It is a monetary neglect [charge] as opposed to an abusive kind of neglect," Patterson said. "It seems to be a child-support issue. Anyone we arrest, we send to the Clayton County Jail. They will hold him until Carroll County makes arrangements to get him."

According to Patterson, the names of the people involved in this case are not being released at this time, because all of the parents of the children under the couple's care had not yet been contacted by police,as of Tuesday evening.

The four other children in the couple's care will be handed over to the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services, he said.

While charges had not yet been filed against the caretakers on Tuesday, Patterson said their actions raise serious questions. "It was unusual, because, if you have a 6-month-old in distress, why wouldn't you call 911?" Patterson said. "Why would you get the children changed to go to the hospital, if the child wasn't breathing? At what time did you know that the baby was experiencing medical difficulty? There are a lot of questions."