EL PASO COUNTY — Deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office have arrested a woman providing day care services inside a home following the death of an infant earlier this year.
A release states medical personnel tried to save the child's life on February 5, but the infant was pronounced dead at a hospital. The baby was only three months old, according to the El Paso County Coroner's Office.
The El Paso County Coroner's Office released the autopsy report for the infant. The report said the baby was placed on their left side for a nap on an adult bed, with two sheets, a blanket, and comforter underneath the child at around 10:45 a.m. on February 5. The Coroner's Office calls it an unsafe sleep environment. At around 11:38 a.m. the baby was found unresponsive in a face down position. The young child was pronounced dead at a hospital at 7:21 that evening.
The Coroner's Office believes the death was accidental, and a result of asphyxia associated with an unsafe sleep environment. The report also states lobar pneumonia contributed to the cause of death.
53-year-old Dana McNair is facing one charge of felony child abuse resulting in death, plus over a dozen additional counts of misdemeanor child abuse related to other children under her care. "Misdemeanor child abuse, that charge typically relates to the environment in which a child is being cared for, maybe a specific action a person does against a child. So, it just runs a wide gambit of behaviors and actions," said Sgt. Jason Garrett of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
According to the Sheriff's Office, the home on Widefield Drive was used to care for children between the ages of 18 months old and seven years old. Those with the Colorado Department of Human Services said McNair is not a licensed child care provider.
Following the child's death in February, investigators began a review of the day care operation. Those with the Sheriff's Office said McNair was the only adult caring for the children on February 5.
News5 obtained the arrest affidavit for McNair on Thursday, June 17. In the paperwork, it says there were at least 20 children in McNair's care on February 5. McNair apparently told investigators she normally watches around five children at a time, and that day was unusual.
The arrest papers also state McNair told investigators she had been taking care of children for around 18 years, and families knew she was not licensed.
Deputies also said McNair decided to put the baby in an adult bed for the nap, so the infant would not be disturbed while she made lunch for the other children. McNair told investigators she went to check on the baby after around 15 minutes, and found the child face down and unresponsive. She said she immediately called 911, and tried to perform CPR.
CLICK HERE to read the full arrest affidavit.
McNair has a Hearing on Advisement scheduled for June 24.
On Monday, News5 spoke with Jessica Burrows, a neighbor of McNair. "Our roots here run really deep, and so any kind of community tragedy, it hits home... Any time I saw the kids, they were all happy, and from what I do know about the day care center, they were loved in her care," said Burrows.
Under Colorado law, a day care home permit is required, allowing a maximum of six children, plus two if it is an after-school care program.
All child care programs are licensed by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Operations that do not require a license include those with special religious instruction, those that build a single skill, programs that are less than three hours in a 24-hour period, an event with no pattern, and more.
According to the El Paso County Coroner's Annual Report for 2020, there were eight child deaths related to an unsafe sleep environment or asphyxia.
News5 met with a NICU nurse from St. Francis Medical Center to discuss the standards of safe sleep for an infant. Registered Nurse Deb Keithley has completed 42 years of nursing, and 39 of those years she has worked with children and infants. She teaches new parents how to ensure their babies are sleeping in the safest possible manner. "One of the first things that happens is there's a card that goes in their crib, it says ABC, or alone on their back in a crib," said Keithley.
Keithley said babies ought to sleep on their backs, in their own beds. There should not be any bumper pads, toys, pillows, or blankets in a child's crib. According to Keithley, the only thing a baby can have with them when they sleep is a pacifier. She said it is important to ask questions about safe sleep practices when leaving a child in another person's care. "Interview the provider that they have selected to say, what is your safe sleep practice? What do you do to protect my baby when my baby is taking a nap?" said Keithley.
CLICK HERE for more information on safe sleep practices for infants.