Jenn Salley: Unlicensed daycare owner who left twin toddlers to drown in pool as she answered door is spared jail

In Tennessee, unlicensed daycares at home are prohibited from providing baby care for more than four children but her Facebook page showed photos with up to 11 children at a time


                            Jenn Salley: Unlicensed daycare owner who left twin toddlers to drown in pool as she answered door is spared jail
Jenn Salley (Knox County Sheriff)

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE: An unlicensed, in-home daycare owner pled guilty to two counts of criminally negligent homicide after two children died from drowning in her pool. Identified as Jenn Salley, the woman was sentenced to probation.

Salley, 37, will be serving four years on state supervised probation after the family of twin-toddlers Elijah and Elyssa Orejuela requested for it. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that the children died from drowning in a pool in Salley's Tennessee home in 2018. Salley, who operated the Om Baby Daycare as a babysitter, will also be placed on the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Severe Abuse Registry, the outlet reported.

In the victim impact statement, the family said the “trail of destruction she left is unfathomable". They added, "There is no punishment for Jennifer Salley that could or would ever equal the suffering our family will endure the rest of our lives due to her criminal conduct. No amount of jail time would turn back time. It wouldn’t bring Elyssa back. It wouldn’t bring Elijah back. It would not bring their laughs back."

The one-year-old twins were in Salley's care when she went to answer the door for another child. The News Sentinel reported at the time that this had allowed the twins to climb into the pool, before they were found floating in the pool's deep end. They were rushed to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital by an ambulance. Elyssa died at the hospital, and Elijah two days later on July 22, after being put on life support. 

According to Tennessee law, unlicensed daycares at home are prohibited from providing baby care facilities for more than four children at a time, no longer than three hours a day. Salley's Om Baby Facebook page however showed photos with up to 11 children at a time. Weeks later, the state’s Department of Human Services received a complaint about the crowd at Salley's home. State evaluators who had previously visited Salley's property multiple times before the tragedy had also given her a temporary restraining order, under which Salley couldn't provide her services without getting a license. Evidence of the smell of feces and poor supervision at the home were also mentioned by investigators, the evaluators had reported to the media. 

Salley allegedly took payments in the form of pain medications. Her advertisement on Care.com also falsely claimed that she was licensed by the state, thus allowing her to care for more than four children at a time. Back when the twins died, Salley herself did not have custody of her own children as her parents had complained against her being an abusive parent and took care of their grandchildren instead.

The news of Salley's sentence comes shortly after a man pled guilty to charges related to the death of his granddaughter who fell 150 ft from the window of a cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico last year. The 18-month-old was being watched by her grandfather when she fell out of the window. Salvatore Anello pled guilty to negligent homicide in the death of his grandchild, Chloe Wiegand, on Thursday, October 15, as previously reported by MEAWW.

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