Forgotten Toddler Dies In Wisconsin Day-Care Van
Child Left In Van All Day

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) -- A toddler died in a day-care center van where she apparently had stayed all day in hot, muggy weather, police and witnesses say.

Officers responded to a call at 2:59 p.m. Thursday of an unresponsive child in a van and confirmed upon arrival that the child had died, said police Detective Lt. Chuck Padgett. The 2-year-old girl may have been in the van since 7 a.m., he said.

Temperatures reached into the 80s in the Milwaukee area during the day. One window of the van may have been open a crack, Padgett said.

Investigators were interviewing the driver, trying to determine the exact sequence of events. Charges had not been filed against either the driver or the center, and the driver was not under arrest.

"He came here voluntarily and he's cooperating with us right now," Padgett said.

He said state licensing and child welfare officials would be talking with the center's operators.

The victim's identity was not released by authorities, but her mother, Nicole Jones, said in interviews that when she went to the day care to pick up her daughter, Asia, she was told the girl hadn't been there Thursday.

"That's when the teacher tells me, 'Your daughter never showed up at day care,' and I'm saying -- thinking to myself -- 'What? My mom gave my daughter to the van driver'," she told WTMJ-TV.

Once center personnel found the child in the van, "I rushed outside to see what was going on, and they were just yelling, 'Call the ambulance,"' she said. "I could see my daughter laying there not breathing or anything."

Karen Smith, a mother who was in the area, told reporters she was there when the child's mother came to the center looking for the girl.

"This lady was screaming, `Where's my kid? Where's my kid?"' Smith told WTMJ-TV. "`You guys had my kid, picked up my kid at seven o'clock this morning and you're trying to tell me you haven't seen my kid all day?'

"So then she came all the way out the door and they looked in the van, and her kid was just laying there dead."

Smith said workers at the center attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation but got no response.

Sue Sthokal, who owns First Class Child Care next to the other day care, said she had stepped outside Thursday when she saw police talking to the dead child's mother.

"I saw the mother crying in the alley and police were talking to her," she said. "I just want people to understand. This is not every day care. This is a freak accident."

Christina Clark, 23, who lives above the Come and Grow with Me center, said she saw the toddler's mother carry her child from the center van to an ambulance, then became distraught when other parents arrived.

"The mother yelled to another parent that her daughter was dead," Clark said.

"It just makes me think that it could have been my children," she said tearfully.

Word of the death had reached many parents, who looked harried as they picked up their youngsters later Thursday.

"It's sad, really sad," said Jose Reynolds, 25, who had picked up his two children, ages 2 and 9 at the center Thursday afternoon.

"I believe it's just an accident, but the driver should be let go," he said.

He said the center's operators "looked terrible. They looked physically shaken."

Kael Lampe, 33, whose 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter attend the day care next door, added a stuffed animal, flowers and a knitted white cross with yellow trim to a growing memorial outside the day care where the child died.

Lampe said she could barely stand the heat in her car when she drove to get gasoline earlier in the day, and she couldn't bear to think how a little child would feel in a closed vehicle.

"I'm 33," she said through tears. "I can't take 20 minutes, and you think of a little body that couldn't handle it, and nobody knew she was in there.

"And the mother -- I couldn't imagine."

A woman who answered the door at the Come and Grow with Me center said she could not immediately comment. She declined to give her name.