LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A 1-year old girl who stopped breathing at home day care in April died of suffocation, not of natural causes, Call 6 Investigates has learned.
Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt said Wednesday the child died of mechanical asphyxia.
Mechanical asphyxia typically refers to when something external prevents a person from breathing.
“Legally, I have to tell you it was an accident,” said Avolt, who declined to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the death.
Avolt said she sent her report to the Tippecanoe County prosecutor who is expected to review the case.
The toxicology report did not reveal any medications or other issues that would have led to the child’s death.
The day care provider, Debbie Keyes, was operating illegally when the child stopped breathing, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, the state agency that regulates child care.
“We continue to make unannounced visits at the day care,” said Marni Lemons, spokesperson for Indiana FSSA.
Lemons said their inspections reveal Keyes’ day care has been operating legally since the girl’s death, which means she’s watching five or fewer unrelated children without a license.
FSSA sent a letter to Keyes in April, accusing her of watching too many children without the proper license at the time of the 1-year old’s death.
On April 25, the toddler was found unresponsive and not breathing at Keyes’ unlicensed home day care, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
If a child care provider cares for six or more children unrelated to the provider, they need a license, according to FSSA.
For example, a provider could legally watch five children, plus four of their own children and still be following the law.
FSSA has no authority to notify parents about disciplinary actions in an unlicensed day care, according to spokeswoman Marni Lemons in a 2014 interview with Call 6 Investigates.
“Unlicensed providers aren’t even required to keep records,” Lemons said.
If you would like to find out if a day care is licensed or not, go to the FSSA Carefinder website here .
If the provider is not listed, that could mean they are unlicensed and you should ask more questions.
If they are licensed, you should be able to view their inspection record.
Child Care Answers can also be reached at 1-800- 272-2937 or here.