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Jury rejects murder charges in van death

Day care owner Marlo Fallings and her daughter’s attorney, Bruce Harvey, during the women’s trial last week in Clayton County Superior Court. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Day care owner Marlo Fallings and her daughter’s attorney, Bruce Harvey, during the women’s trial last week in Clayton County Superior Court. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

JONESBORO — The former owner of a day care center and her daughter were convicted late Friday for their roles in the death of a tot left in a van after a field trip.

Marlo Fallings, owner of the now-defunct Magnificent Marlo’s Early Learning Center, and her daughter, Quantabia Hopkins, will be sentenced May 2.

They stood trial last week in Clayton County Superior Court for murder in the death of Jazmin Green, 2. Green was left strapped in a car seat inside a center van after an outing with seven other kids to Chuck E. Cheese in June 2011.

Fallings, who wasn’t on the property when the van returned, was convicted of misdemeanor reckless conduct. She faces a maximum of 12 months in jail and a minimum probated sentence.

Hopkins was found guilty on the more serious charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and felony contributing to the deprivation of a minor. She faces more than 10 years in prison, said Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Deah Warren.

While the jury received instructions that allowed them to consider lesser-included offenses, Warren argued during her closing statement that their reckless disregard for Green’s safety caused her death.

“It was 93 degrees that day,” said Warren. “It was 12:26 p.m. when they got back and 3:42 p.m. when they called 911. It wasn’t 15 minutes, it wasn’t 30 minutes, it wasn’t an hour, two hours.

“It was three hours that Jazmin Green sat in that day care van at Magnificent Marlo’s Early Learning Center, enclosed and alone,” she continued. “Trapped. And it only got hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter and then she died.”

She also pointed out that Hopkins needed only to count to eight to ensure Green made it off the van safely.

“You don’t even need to take off your shoes to count to eight,” she said. “I guess we can count our blessings it was just one child who died that day.”

Attorney Andre Johnson defended Fallings and drove home the point that she wasn’t at the center when the van returned.

“This was an accident,” he said during his closing statement. “Two witnesses said Marlo Fallings wasn’t even there. She can’t have left Jazmin Green in the van if she wasn’t there.”

Hopkins was represented by co-counsels Bruce Harvey and Rudjard Hayes. During his closing, Harvey said the women were “wonderful teachers.”

“It is unimaginable that Ms. Hopkins in any form or fashion wished any child any harm of any kind,” he said.