Updated 4:48 p.m. 7/27
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Police in Dallas have arrested 32-year-old Erica Hooks in connection with the death of a toddler. That child was left inside of a sweltering daycare van last Friday, as temperatures across North Texas soared past 100 degrees.
The family of 3-year-old Benjamin Price said that he was a playful and happy child. But when his grandmother arrived at Little T’s Tiny Tots day care center to pick him up last week, Price was not in the building. He was left inside of a van after the children went to the movies. The high temperature that day was 105 degrees, and investigators believe that Price had been in the van alone for more than two hours.
Price, whose family called him Benji, was pronounced dead from heatstroke at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.
His family declined comment on the arrest announcement, but a family spokesman said they were heartbroken and devastated by their loss.
Child Protective Services is investigating the case, and says that the center — located in the 2200 block of Buckner Boulevard in Dallas — has seen a number of problems in the past. Within the last two years, CPS has found 23 violations at Little T’s Tiny Tots. Now, officials said that the facility could lose its license.
The day care already wasn’t allowed to haul around any kids because of the investigation, and now the operators have agreed to voluntarily close while the state looks into the death of Price.
“During the investigation, which can take up to 30 days, we’ll gather more information to make a decision as to whether or not some sort of corrective action us warranted or possibly even permanently revoking their permit,” said Marissa Gonzales with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
A police affidavit indicates Hooks drove 16 children to a movie, and thought she accounted for all of them when they returned.
According to the affidavit, Hooks counted the children, but believes she miscounted. The day care had a policy stating the driver must do a head count of every child verifying each child is strapped in, and sign in each child as they are loading. The affidavit makes no mention of her taking either action.
Hooks was the driver of the daycare center van. She has been charged with injury to a child. Her bond has been set at $50,000, but she is also being held on other outstanding warrants.
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