'Distracted' daycare worker who left 3-year-old girl to die in scorching van for four hours sentenced to 11 months in jail
Louvenia Johnson, 29, pleaded no contest in June to aggravated manslaughter of a child by culpable negligence
A Florida daycare worker who had a part in leaving a three-year-old girl in a hot van last summer leading to her death has been sentenced to 11 months in jail.
Louvenia Johnson, 29, who worked as a teacher at In His Arms Christian Academy in Pensacola, was responsible for offloading children from the daycare transport van as they arrived at the daycare. However, on the morning of August 18, 2017, Johnson left three-year-old Jai’Nier Barnes in the van in complete violation of established policy which says that employees have to make sure the transport van is empty.
The child was left inside the van for approximately four hours before another van driver went outside around 1 pm to start the afternoon route and found the child in distress inside the vehicle.
Despite CPR attempts before an ambulance arrived on scene, Jai’Nier was pronounced dead at West Florida Hospital with an internal body temperature of 110 degrees.
In June this year, Johnson pleaded no contest to aggravated manslaughter of a child by culpable negligence, testifying that she was distracted while unloading the children. She was also sentenced to 10 years of probation.
The driver of the van, 27-year-old Cornel McGee, had also been charged with homicide - negligent manslaughter. On August 18 last year, McGee picked up the girl from her Pensacola home and drove her with several other children to the daycare. Both Johnson and McGee had signed state-mandated transportation logs saying Jai’Nier had been taken off the van. However, in June, a jury found McGee not guilty of aggravated manslaughter.
After his trial, McGee told Pensacola News Journal that Johnson picked up each child and said their name and that he sat in the front seat, checking off each child as she did so. In this case, Johnson got distracted by another child and put Jai’Nier down after saying her name, and then the child fell asleep.
Following Johnson's hearing, prosecutors were unsure of how they could prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
"I don't have an answer for what's right," state prosecutor Trey Myers said during the hearing. "It's become an epidemic of some nature and something has to be done to grab their attention, judge," Trey added referring to several other cases that have been reported in the past which observe caregivers leaving the toddlers in hot cars for hours.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Paul Hamlin argued that the trial was unfair as his client, Johnson, was being punished but McGee was allowed to go free. "This is just a terrible tragedy and I don't know how you rectify that," he said.
Judge Boles admitted that the two did not intend to harm the toddler but at the end of the day a child had died under their observation and their sole responsibility was taking care of children under their care.
"Quite frankly they both failed at this, we had Mr McGee go to trial, he admitted he failed and the jury deliberated and made a determination that they thought he failed, his failure didn't rise to the nature of criminal activity," the judge said. Johnson will be prohibited from working with children during her probation period.
Johnson has five children of her own and a limited criminal history.