Child Welfare

Day-care worker jailed in death of 4-year-old left in hot SUV

 

Paris Ward, 19, is charged with manslaughter for her part in the death of a small boy who died in Tamarac after he was forgotten in a hot SUV.

cmarbin@MiamiHerald.com

On the last day of Jordan Coleman’s very short life, two employees from his day-care center drove him and seven other youngsters for an outing of fun: a community pool in Lauderdale Lakes and a public park for lunch.

Afterward, the children were loaded into a Toyota Sequoia and taken to a Tamarac apartment, where seven took naps.

But Jordan, who had already fallen asleep in the SUV, was left behind in the sweltering vehicle. He died there, his body temperature reaching 108 degrees.

On Thursday, one of those day-care employees, 19-year-old Paris Ward, appeared in court on the charge of aggravated manslaughter for her role in the 4-year-old boy’s death on Aug. 1. Late Thursday, she was released from a Broward County jail on bail.

An indictment handed up by a Broward grand jury, which, sources say , contains the names of Ward and two other women, remained sealed Wednesday as the others remained at large. Details of the arrest became public after Ward appeared in court Thursday, sobbing through her entire hearing.

Her lawyer emphasized at the hearing that his client, who had recently finished high school, was not a full-time employee of the day-care and had no criminal record before the arrest.

Jordan, who went by the nickname JoJo, had turned 4 just eight days before he died, when Ward and another young woman, whose mother owned the 3C’s Day Academy, left him in the SUV.

The eight children had left the day-care, at 2125 NW 72nd Ter. in Sunrise, because Ward’s boss, Cecily Roberts, was fearful that state child-care regulators would return to the center on Aug. 1 after a prior inspection turned up several problems, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said. .

Sources told The Miami Herald Thursday that Roberts and her daughter, Camile Gordon, had left the state.

Members of Jordan’s family declined to discuss Ward’s arrest with The Miami Herald Thursday. The family’s lawyer, Stuart V. Grossman, said “the Coleman family was pleased to learn of the arrest of Paris Ward.”

“The family wants all parties involved in the death of Jordan Coleman to be brought to justice — and this is a beginning,” Grossman said.

But Grossman said that Broward County child-care licensing authorities, among others, share blame in the youngster’s death. “There were breakdowns across the board in this case, beginning with inspectors who did not enforce the law at that day-care center.”

At the time of Jordan’s death, 3C’s Day Academy had been under scrutiny by the Broward County Child-Care Licensing division.

Since the center opened in 2008, Roberts had been repeatedly cited for caring for more children than her license allowed, and for leaving the youngsters — some of them infants — in the care of her teenage daughter. The daughter, Camile Gordon, was 18 when Roberts was first faulted, below the age required to operate a day-care center.

Roberts’ last inspection was in June, and she had been cited for four violations. Records show investigators believe Roberts had told her daughter to hide the eight children away from her home-based day-care, because she was afraid licensing authorities would return to the house for a re-inspection and discover she remained over capacity.

Although Roberts is licensed to transport the children in her care — and has never been cited for transportation problems — she has been ticketed more than a dozen times in either Miami-Dade or Broward counties, and records show her driver’s license currently is suspended.

And after Jordan died, BSO said, police found only one child safety seat in the SUV that Gordon and Ward used to transport the eight children — who ranged in age from infants to age five.

About 1:15 p.m. that day, BSO said, Ward and the other employee parked the Sequoia in the parking lot of the Versailles apartments, 7806 Colony Circle and took seven of the children to apartment 202. They didn’t realize they had forgotten Jordan until about 3:45 p.m.

By the time they remembered Jordan, it was too late.

In a prepared statement, BSO said Ward discovered the youngster unconscious lying across a back seat of the SUV. She removed him from the SUV and put him on nearby grass. Neighbors said at the time they tried to revive the boy, without success.

“Ward initially lied about how Jordan became unconscious, telling her coworker and a BSO homicide detective that he inexplicably collapsed while getting into the SUV,” BSO said in a statement. “About two hours into the investigation, she tearfully admitted the truth to another BSO detective.”

BSO, which also investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect in Broward under contract with the Department of Children & Families, closed down 3Cs after Jordan’s death.

Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS4 contributed to this report.

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