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Alabama/The Mobile News


Ex-day-care worker heads to jail

Legal options over for Tchnavian Dailey, convicted of letting a child die in a church van in 1998


Staff Reporter

On Friday, nearly four years after former day-care worker Tchnavian Dailey left a toddler to die in a broiling van, she began serving the six-month sentence she received in 1999 for criminally negligent homicide.

Mobile County Circuit Judge William McDermott denied her lawyer's request that she spend the sentence in community service instead of jail.

Her court appearance Friday ended a series of legal moves that took the case to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, then to the state Supreme Court, before landing once again before McDermott.

Dailey, 29, originally charged with manslaughter in the June 22, 1998, death of 3-year-old DeMyreon Lindley, was convicted instead of criminally negligent homicide fol lowing her trial a year later.

According to testimony, Dailey was working for the First Baptist Church Daycare of Baltimore Street Inc. when she left the child in a van for nearly 10 hours, strapped in a car seat.

The van was parked on the street in front of the center all day. DeMyreon's body was found that evening by another day-care worker, after temperatures inside the van were estimated to have soared to 131 degrees, according to testimony. The child died of heatstroke.

During the trial, jurors heard taped recordings of interviews conducted by Mobile police with Dailey and Sonia Murray, the chaperone, the night the child died. Both women told police that while they relied on a list to check off the names of the children as they were picked up in the van, they did not use a list to check them off once they arrived at the day-care center.

Dailey testified that it was her job to remain in the driver's seat of the idling van and wait for Murray to get the children off and into the center. "I would not have left that child behind," she said.

McDermott sentenced Dailey to one year behind bars, then suspended it, ordering her to serve six months and placing her on probation for two years.

On Friday, Dailey's attorney, Dom Soto, reminded McDermott that his client appealed her conviction because prosecutors struck a potential juror during the selection process prior to the 1999 trial, based on indications the would-be panelist had a fixed opinion about Dailey's actions the day the child died.

The criminal appeals court later ordered a new trial, ruling McDermott should not have allowed prosecutors to make the strike.

The Alabama Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the lower court, declaring that while McDermott's decision may have been in error, it was harmless and therefore not reversible.

Accordingly, Dailey was arrested two weeks ago and began serving her time.

Soto argued Friday that she now had a management job with a local gas station chain, was raising two children and was "a different person than the one who was before you" during the manslaughter trial.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Rich told McDermott that Dailey's neglect of the child was "one of the most horrible acts of cruelty ever in Mobile County." She asked that, among other reasons, he force Dailey to do the time as a "message to day-care workers."

Outside court, Rich said Dailey's attempts to stay out of jail two years after being sentenced "shows she has no remorse and feels she should not be punished" for leaving the child in the van "to die a horrible, cruel death."

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