Girl’s death at day care brings plea from mother to hold workers accountable

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Selecting a day care center is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. But a FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers investigation reveals dangerous loopholes in the information parents have access to when it comes to day care centers and workers.

A mother from Colorado Springs is speaking out about it. Her baby girl died after being put on her stomach to go to sleep at a day care. There are pictures of baby Addy in every room of the Burgin family home, including a shadow box from Addy's day care center where she died three years ago.

Everything seemed fine when Mary Burgin dropped off Addy at White Oaks Academy that morning.

"Went to leave and for some reason I turned around that day and I said 'Let me give her one more kiss,'" Burgin said.

There's no way Burgin could have known it would be the last time she would kiss her baby girl while she was still alive.

There is video of Abby recorded on the day care's video system that horrible day. There was nothing out of the ordinary; it showed a worker putting Addy on her back, on the floor.

If you look closely, you can see Addy starts to cry and cry and cry. This goes on for about 10 minutes until another worker walks in and makes what Burgin believes was a fatal decision: She put the 3-month-old on her stomach.

"Addy never slept on her stomach when she was home," Burgin said.

There was a good reason for that. Burgin said pediatric experts have long connected stomach sleeping to sudden infant death syndrome, especially in babies Addy's age.

It's common sense that Burgin said most parents know and every day care worker is required to follow. Under Colorado safe sleeping rules, day care workers are prohibited from putting infants on their stomachs and are required to move a sleeping child to a crib.

But the video tells the awful truth. For 59 minutes, Addy laid crying as day care workers ignored the rules, and worse yet, ignored the crying, struggling baby.

"It's as if it was the perfect storm of a dangerous situation. We have a quilted play mat and she's laying on it on her stomach unable to roll over," Burgin said.

It's video Burgin has never seen. In the beginning, the day care wouldn't give her the video. But police confiscated it and logged it, minute by minute. For the first nine minutes, Addy is on her stomach.

The detective who watched the tape noted you can see workers getting lunch ready for other children, repeatedly walking by Addy, who, he says, was "thrashing" with her face "directly placed into the mat."

Twenty minutes after she was put on her stomach, the officer noted her face was still into the mat. She was still thrashing, trying to pull her knees under her. And the day care worker was sitting at the table talking to someone off screen.

The video shows the workers ignoring the struggling baby as they cleaned up, put the other kids to nap and turned off the lights. The video showed them high-five each other, looking at their cellphones but never at Addy.

"Addy could still be seen moving her feet as the worker walks past her again not checking on her," the officer wrote.

The video showed Addy moving less. Then 42 minutes after she was placed on her stomach, the officer wrote, "I have not seen any movement for over four minutes from Addy.”

The video showed workers walking past Addy at least 10 times while she was face down into the mat and motionless. One worker stopped once to touch her back.

Then, 59 minutes after Addy was put on her stomach, a worker can be seen picking her up. Addy had not moved in 23 minutes and her body is limp as the worker picked her up. She was not breathing when 911 was called.

The day care called Burgin at work.

"I remember putting down my phone and yelling in my office somebody needs to take me to Addy's day care," Burgin said.

From the day care, Burgin followed the ambulance to the hospital. Doctors briefly got Addy's heart beating again.

"I stood there and I held her hand and rubbed her leg and just begged her to follow mommy's voice. Just come back to me you're going to be fine just come back to me," Burgin said

But the doctor said Addy's heart would not beat on its own and her brain had been deprived of oxygen too long.

"And he asked us to please, he asked us if we believed in God and if we were comfortable letting this be God's decision whether Addy lived," Burgin said.

Burgin and her husband, Chase, put it in God's hands.

"And so I held her and Chase stood with us and held her hand as she took her last breath," Burgin said.

When the day care center refused to let the Burgins see the video, Mary Burgin started asking questions.

"Such a happy, healthy baby. You drop off this healthy, happy, beautiful baby expecting after five or six or eight hours you're going to pick up that same happy baby. That's your expectation as a parent," she said.

Burgin did her homework before starting Addy at White Oaks Academy and it had a clean record when she checked on the state's child care website.

But after Addy died, Burgin discovered the day care had been cited for repeated violations including putting babies on their stomachs and rather than lose the license, the owner took out a new license under a business partner's name.

"I want parents to know even when you think you've done all the research even when you think you have all the information to have a safe environment for your child you need to do more," Burgin said.

The state investigated after Addy died. The day care owner’s license was suspended and White Oaks Academy was closed. The day care worker who put Addy on her stomach was cited, but not criminally charged.

Burgin points out there is nothing preventing her or anyone from the day care center continuing to work in child care. And except for very narrow circumstances, there is no way for parents to check whether day care workers have been investigated.

"There were a lot of excuses pushing the responsibility of her death and investigating it and making changes so it didn't happen again," Burgin said. "Those were pushed from person to person from agency to agency, but no one stopped to say now we need to make a change."