Child found dead in daycare van

By Staff Reports

Published: July 6, 2009

A Richmond day care worker is in police custody this evening after a 13-month-old child was found dead this afternoon in a day care center van.

Keishawn L. Whitfield, 23, an employee of the Yellow Brick Road Day Care & Learning Center, will be charged with child neglect, according to a statement by Richmond police.

Police said Whitfield discovered the child after returning to the van. Investigators began looking into the death after receiving a medical emergency call about 4:30 p.m. in the 2700 block of Garland Avenue, where Whitfield lives.

Police believe the child was left unattended for several hours in the van. The cause and manner of the child's death will be determined by the state Medical Examiner's Office.

Investigators are consulting with the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's Office about additional charges.


Richmond man arraigned in toddler’s death

Published: July 7, 2009

A 23-year-old Richmond man was arraigned this morning on a charge of felony child neglect in the death of a 13-month-old boy in a day-care center van.

Keishawn L. Whitfield, an employee of the Yellow Brick Road Day Care & Learning Center in the 2000 block of Fourth Avenue, was arraigned by video in front of Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Judge Richard B. Campbell. The judge set bond at $20,000, and defense attorney John W. Luxton said his client, who is being held in the city lockup, likely would be freed later today.

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael L. Herring said today that his office will consider whether to upgrade the charge against Whitfield, who discovered the child, identified in court as Andrew Johnson, after returning to the van yesterday afternoon. Police responded to the emergency call at 4:30 p.m. in the 2700 block of Garland Avenue, where Whitfield lives.

Campbell scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 4 and agreed to a request by Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary E. Langer that Whitfield not be allowed to have any contact with children.

Luxton described Johnson’s death as clearly an accident and said he has known Whitfield’s family for several years. Whitfield typically drove the van 3-4 times daily, Luxton said.

“I can’t imagine what happened,” Luxton said. “It was a tragedy for everybody involved, particularly for the parents of the child.”

Valerot Whitlow, the owner of the day-care center and Whitfield’s mother, attended the 5-minute video arraignment with family and neighbors. She did not make any comments after the hearing, but one neighbor, Charlene Sutton, said, “We know it’s a bad situation, and we just let God prevail.”

A neighbor who lives next door to Whitfield described the family as good, hard-working people who were distraught about what happened.

The neighbor, who declined to be identified, said he talked with Whitfield’s brother after emergency crews responded and “he was angry that it happened.“

“He was angry… because nobody noticed the child until [Whitfield] found” him in the van after returning home at 2719 Garland Avenue. The boy was still alive and Whitfield tried to resuscitate him before emergency crews arrived, the neighbor said.

“I’m just sorry it happened,“ the neighbor said. “I can’t imagine the grief that Keishawn is feeling. He’s a good kid.“

Whitfield was charged in November 2007 with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He initially pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea. In January, a judge found there was sufficient evidence to convict on a charge of possesision but took the case under advisement and placed Whitfield under supervision, Langer said today.

— Mark Bowes and Michael Martz