LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An elderly daycare owner is charged with killing the 2-year-old Louisville boy who died after he was forgotten in a hot van for several hours.
Police arrested 70-year-old Jacquelin Thomas late Tuesday in connection with LaVontae Swain's death on April 18. Swain was her great nephew, and his mother says this tragedy is ripping the family apart.
Police say the elderly woman picked Swain up heading to Lil Kings and Queens Child Development Center on Terry Road. The toddler sat in the van six hours according to state reports as temperatures soared into the mid 80s.
Police say Thomas was "acting in her official capacity" as the daycare owner when the death occurred.
Now facing a manslaughter charge, this is the first time Thomas has ever been arrested. Her attorney, Keith Kamenish, says she "is not a threat to anyone in this community (and) what happened there was an accident."
Investigators say two children at Gutermuth Elementary found his limp body during after school pickups.
When asked if she wants Thomas to go to prison even though she's her aunt, LaVonte's mother, Carless Swain, was blunt.
"You know, to be honest, I do," Swain said. "I really do. I'm not going to sugar coat nothing. I want you to feel how I feel. That was your family sitting in the backseat. How can you forget about family?"
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services ordered the day care center closed indefinitely two days after Swain's death. The order states that Thomas "verbally acknowledged having forgotten the 2-year-old child" and posed an immediate risk to the health safety and welfare of children.
WDRB has learned that Lil' Kings and Queens Child Development center has a history of violations - including failing to keep proper transportation logs.
Kamenish says Thomas is cooperating with police in the investigation.
"We've cooperated with police, providing samples, providing a statement," Kamenish said. "They wanted to talk with three witnesses, we provided those witnesses. They wanted surveillance equipment for the day care - we got them into that storage."
Kamenish entered a not guilty plea for Thomas at her arraignment. Her bond was also lowered to $10,000 cash. If Thomas does bond out of jail, she has been ordered not to drive.
Legal expert Leland Hulbert, a former prosecutor for the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, say it's possible for Thomas to avoid prison.
"These cases are difficult for jurors to just walk in and rubber stamp a conviction based on what the defendant has to live with," Hulbert said.
If Thomas is convicted, she could also be eligible for probation.
"You get what you get," Swain said. "My baby is still gone. That is something I have to live with for the rest of my life."
LaVontae Swain was laid to rest Monday.
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