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Daycare Leaves Child Strapped In Van For Seven Hours

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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LEWISVILLE (CBS 11 NEWS) - When Stephanie Barber showed up at Little Servant Christian Academy on Wednesday to pick up her four-year-old daughter, no one knew where to find the little girl.  Barber hadn’t seen her daughter since she dropped her off at preschool around 11 that morning. Daycare workers say they hadn’t seen little Johnna Fields all day and thought she had stayed home sick.

“I was in shock,” Barber said. “My heart was kind of pounding. I was praying to God she was okay.”

Daycare staff members scrambled to find Johnna.  Eventually, they found her still strapped into the van that picked her up from preschool and took her to the day care center almost seven hours earlier.

“She told me she was in the car seat and she told me that she was yelling for me, she was calling out my name,” Barber said.

“How could this happen?” Lonnie Barber, Fields’ grandfather said.  “They couldn’t explain to us how this could happen. Johnna had been in that van from 10:30 in the morning to 5:30 that afternoon. Sitting in the car seat!”

The church did not respond to an interview request, but told the family the van driver was immediately fired.

A police report identifies the driver as Raychell Polar.  Polar said she followed all procedures in removing the children from the van.  Her employer told police they thought Polar had just made a “terrible mistake,” the report stated.

Child Protective services said the day care has a normal operating history. But state records do show that as late as last month,  four staff members had not completed abuse and neglect training. Police say charges will be filed against Polar.

“It will be abandoning or endangering a child,” said Lewisville Police Captain Jay Powell.  “It is a state jail felony so it is a felony charge.”

A state felony carries a penalty of up to two years in jail and $10,000 in fines.

Family members say Johnna has been very quiet since coming home. But she did say three other children were removed from the van Wednesday morning – before she was forgotten.

“This should not happen!” Lonnie Barber exclaimed. “This should not happen! We hear  this all the time, of a child being left in a van! They go on trips and they come back and the child is not taken — Why? Why don’t they have a procedure for them to go through?”

Barber said he’s asked state lawmakers to look at legislation making penalties tougher for people who leave children in day care vehicles.

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