Trial set for four ex-day care employees
Women entered innocent pleas in death of boy, 5, left in sweltering van
MARION — A Crittenden County circuit judge set a November trial for four women charged in the June 12 death of a 5-year-old boy left inside a van for several hours, but an attorney representing one of the accused said the trial will likely be held later.
On Monday, Circuit Judge John Fogleman of Marion set Nov. 6-9 trials for four former employees of Ascent Children’s Health Services of West Memphis.
The facility provides care for developmentally disabled children.
The four face charges of felony manslaughter after police say they left Christopher Gardner Jr. inside a day care transport van for eight hours June 12 while temperatures inside the vehicle climbed to 141 degrees. Authorities found Christopher in the back seat of the 15-passenger van.
West Memphis Police Capt. Joe Baker said the youngster freed himself from a child seat and took off his shirt and one shoe. Authorities found his body sitting upright in a seat across the aisle from where he first sat.
Kendra Washington, 40; Felicia Ann Phillips, 42; and Wanda Taylor, 43, pleaded innocent during a hearing Monday in Crittenden County Circuit Court.
Pamela Lavette Robinson, 43, entered an innocent plea earlier last month because her attorney, Bart Ziegenhorn of West Memphis, was called for jury duty in another county Monday.
The four were released on $20,000 bonds each.
Ascent fired the four women in June.
Ashley Smith, Christopher’s mother, filed a civil lawsuit against Ascent, its president and the four former employees July 20.
Ziegenhorn said he expects Fogleman to reschedule the trial for a later date.
“There is a lot of information we need to go over,” he said. “We’re still looking at it.
“It’s not unusual to continue a case that has this much documentation,” he said.
Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington said in June that he chose to charge the four women with felony manslaughter rather than negligent homicide because of circumstances that led to the boy’s death.
Police said Ascent workers signed documents showing that Christopher was taken inside the West Memphis day care center, even though he remained on the van.
Ellington said he felt that the boy’s death was a result of reckless conduct, rather than negligence.
Ziegenhorn said he would not comment on the case.
The four face charges of felony manslaughter after police say they left Christopher Gardner Jr. inside a day care transport van for eight hours June 12 while temperatures inside the vehicle climbed to 141 degrees.