Judges uphold convictions for death of child at unlicensed home daycare


Jennifer Nelson for www.theindianalawyer.com

The state presented sufficient evidence that a Hamilton County woman operated a child care home under the law, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday in affirming her convictions related to a death of a child while in her care.

Stacey D. Cox operated an unlicensed daycare from her home and advertised her services through her website. In September 2012, the Family and Social Services Administration, after receiving a complaint, investigated Cox and twice found she was violating the law by watching more children than allowed. Indiana law defines a child care home as a residential structure in which at least six nonrelatives are receiving care from the provider for regular compensation.

But after several warnings to become licensed and follow up visits by the FSSA, the agency found that Cox was not watching more than five unrelated children, so no other action was taken.

In January 2013, 3-month-old C.T., who began going to Cox’s daycare two months prior, was found unresponsive by Cox’s daughter, Kirsten Philips, in the broken pack-and-play they placed him in for a nap. He had sunken into the broken part of the pack-and-play and was not breathing. He was taken to the hospital, but died from the accident.

Cox faced several charges from the incident, including Class D felony involuntary manslaughter and Class B misdemeanor operating a child care home without a license, which are at issue in her appeal, Stacey D. Cox v. State of Indiana, 29A05-1312-CR-637.

She argued the state didn’t prove she operated a child care home under I.C. 12-17.2-5-28.6, but the judges pointed to testimony from other parents who brought their children to her home for daycare, who testified they used Cox for full-time or part-time child care during this time period. Based on this testimony, the jury was able to infer that the seven other children found in Cox’s home – in addition to the unrelated C.T. and his sibling L.T. – were also unrelated to Cox, Judge Edward Najam wrote.

The state also proved that she provided care for at least six unrelated children for compensation, which would put her in violation of the law requiring she obtain a license to watch that many unrelated children.