The owner and two employees of a closed Chapel Hill daycare have been charged with felony child abuse after police say a 2-year-old girl was left buckled in her car seat on a bus for six and a half hours last month.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services shut down Operation New Life on June 19. Owner Michael Cureton and two of his employees – Rosa Brigman and Dreama Caldwell – were charged with child abuse by neglect, a Class I felony.
Brigman is accused of leaving Karah Evans on the bus from about 8:45 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. June 16. Cureton and Caldwell are accused of failing to call 911, according to arrest warrants.
Karah’s mother, Kimberly Cates, filed a report with the Chapel Hill police the day of the incident. In an interview last month, she said Cureton and an assistant came to her apartment shortly after 5 p.m. with Karah, who was “disheveled, beet red and in different clothes.”
She said Cureton told her Karah had been left in the bus for “most of the day,” and that employees tried to give her ice water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after they found her, which she threw up. No one contacted emergency medical services, despite the child’s condition, she said.
The warrants state Karah was left in her car seat June 16, when temperatures approached 100 degrees. This caused “severe heat exhaustion” and required emergency medical care, according to an arrest warrant.
The daycare, at 825 N. Estes Drive, has a history of state standards violations.
In an interview June 19, Brigman said she was the bus monitor on the day Karah was left in her carseat, meaning she was responsible for making sure all children got safely on and off the bus during pick-up and drop-off.
The daycare released a statement June 17 saying that the employee responsible had been fired and that new policies were being put in place. But Brigman said during the interview she had been an employee of Operation New Life since February and, at that time, she thought she was still employed. On court documents filed July 1, Brigman listed Operation New Life as her employer.
Brigman said four children were on the bus that morning: two older children attending summer camp, a 6-month-old baby, and Karah. Brigman said Caldwell returned to the bus in the afternoon and found the girl.
“I was holding a baby that day, and a diaper bag, and my own bag,” Brigman said, explaining why she didn’t see Karah on the bus earlier.
Brigman and Cureton have been released from custody on unsecured bond, according to court records. Caldwell has also been released on bond, according to her attorney.
Brigman and Cureton are scheduled to appear in court July 24; Caldwell, on Aug. 14.
The daycare, at 825 N. Estes Drive, has been found in violation during each annual inspection for the past three years, according to North Carolina records.
In 2013, one employee had not had a modified criminal record check in the past three years.
In 2014, an inspector found a gasoline can and box cutter in areas accessible to children. Two staff members had no current negative tuberculosis test. Four staff members had no current medical statement on file. Insufficient numbers of first aid-trained staff members were found, and no employee was certified to teach first aid to others. Neither van driver was CPR certified.
In June 2015, the inspector found a bottle of floor cleaner, floor stripper and three cans of paint between the inside and outside doors to the playground. The facility also failed to document regular visual checks for sleeping infants 12 months or younger.