The staff of a defunct San Rafael child care center has been hit with criminal charges and state sanctions over the death of a 4-month-old boy last fall, authorities confirmed Thursday.
Meanwhile, the baby's parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the former facility, Magic Place Children Center in Terra Linda, as well as the owner and two employees. The parents, David Hampp and Anne Garwood, are seeking unspecified damages for the death of their son, Carter.
"This is their only child and it is as devastating as anyone with a child can imagine," said Richard Schoenberger, the parents' attorney. "They're just wracked with pain."
The case began on Oct. 23, when Magic Place employees found the baby unconscious and called 911. Firefighters took the baby to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
San Rafael police and the county coroner's division investigated the boy's death and determined that he accidentally suffocated on his bedding.
The three suspects - owner Claudia Gil, 44, and employees Sandra Del Socoro Alvarado Mendez, 49, and Lorena Huitron-Jiminez, 28 - were arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. They were released on bail while prosecutors reviewed the case for potential charges.
Prosecutors analyzed whether to file manslaughter or other felony charges, but determined the evidence supported misdemeanors, said District Attorney Ed Berberian.
a very careful review," he said.
Gil is charged with six counts of violating child care center licensing requirements, according to a filing by prosecutor Leon Kousharian. The specific allegations are failing to provide medical treatment; failing to provide direct visual supervision; false statements; failure to provide adequate staffing; allowing an employee to provide care without a criminal record clearance; and failure to maintain equipment in safe condition.
Gil has pleaded not guilty. Her defense attorney, Rabin Nabizadeh, said he was not surprised that prosecutors did not file felonies.
"I think it's the sort of case where everybody saw that this was not a case where fault had to be determined that way," he said. "I didn't think felony charges were appropriate and I'm happy the district attorney's office didn't feel that way either."
Alvarado is charged with one count of failure to provide medical treatment, while Huitron-Jiminez was charged with failure to provide medical treatment, failing to provide direct visual supervision and false statements. They have yet to enter pleas.
The three defendants, all Richmond residents, are scheduled to appear in criminal court on Jan. 23. They could face up to six months in jail if convicted, Kousharian said.
The state Department of Social Services conducted its own investigation and revoked the center's license. In addition, the department banned Gil, Alvarado and Huitron-Jiminez from working at licensed facilities, according to state filings.
Contact Gary Klien via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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