Day care owner, daughter indicted in tot’s death

The owner of a Jonesboro day care center and her daughter were indicted Wednesday in last summer’s death of a toddler left inside a van following a field trip to a popular pizza place, the Clayton News Daily has learned.

A Clayton County grand jury indicted Marlo Maria Fallings, 42, and Quantabia Shantell Hopkins, 24, in the June 20 death of Jazmin Green. Green, 2, was left inside a van after Marlo’s Magnificent Early Learning Center returned after a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.

Fallings and Hopkins face two counts of felony murder, three counts of cruelty to children in the second degree and two counts of reckless conduct.

Warrants allege that Hopkins drove Green and seven other kids in the day care’s van to Chuck E. Cheese in Fayetteville. The van returned between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. and seven kids were taken inside for a nap. About an hour later, the children woke and Hopkins realized Green was not among them.

Hopkins checked the van and found Green unresponsive and still strapped in her car seat in the most rear seat on the driver’s side, the warrants allege. Hopkins allegedly told police she carried the child inside and her mother attempted CPR and called 911. The child was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 4:43 p.m.

State regulations require child care centers to document after every field trip to ensure that no child remains on the vehicle used for the outing. During a March 1 state visit, inspectors noted that the center had not properly initialed or documented an Oct. 26 field trip.

Police said the two women admitted to falsifying a checklist to show all children were removed from the van after the Chuck E. Cheese trip, which might show intentional negligence.

All defendants should be considered innocent until proven in a court of law.

The child’s mother, April McAlister, filed suit in Clayton State Court against the two women and the business a week after the death. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges the toddler died as a direct result of the women’s “negligence and carelessness.”

McAlister demands a jury trial. She wants a jury to determine the value of her daughter’s life, both economical and tangible, and compensate her for the loss. McAlister also wants compensation for the mental suffering her daughter endured while strapped in a car seat inside the “sweltering van” as outside temperatures soared into the 90s.

The suit remains unresolved.