LOS ANGELES (CBS) — In 2007, Jacqueline Arce and Antonio Langarica were surprised to discover they would be expecting their second child.
“I was in total shock,” Jacqueline told CBS2. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was in school so I knew it was going to be tougher.”
Baby Adrian was a happy, healthy 10-month-old when his mother went back to Cal State University Northridge to finish up her degree in the fall of 2008.
“I had to finish my last year in school just to get things going and make it right for my family that was now going to expand,” she said.
Her financial aid package included daycare for both her boys, but there was only room for 4-year-old Nicolas at CSUN’s on-campus childcare facility. Due to overflow, Adrian instead ended up attending Camp Runnymede, a private home daycare within the university’s sponsored family childcare network.
Jacqueline felt no reason to be uncomfortable about Runnymede: It was connected to the school, offered the same type of curriculum and had to be under the same CSUN standards. After meeting the owner who ran the daycare, she was told there were only three other children in attendance, promising more direct attention for her child.
But just a few weeks into the school year, Jacqueline received a frantic phone call from her son’s caretaker, Holly Downs.
“It was about 3:10, she called saying I need to get to her home because Adrian suffered an injury,” said Jacqueline. “He was acting weird, like he was acting like a ‘noodle.’”
Soon after, Jacqueline received a call from paramedics saying they were air-lifting baby Adrian to Children’s’ Hospital Los Angeles.
“I didn’t understand why he was going to go so far,” said Jacqueline.
Adrian was unconscious, suffering seizures and placed on a breathing tube. Scans showed internal bleeding in his head. Questions quickly turned to just what happened.
“So they said, well we heard he fell from a changing table,” said father Antonio.
The following day baby Adrian regained consciousness, his breathing tube was removed, but he still suffered from temporary blindness. The police questioned Holly Downs, but social workers directed their investigation at his parents.
“To our surprise three days later, our kids were removed from our custody,” said Jacqueline.
By the end of the week the juvenile court judge dismissed all allegations against Antonio and Jacqueline, and Adrian went home with his parents. But something had changed: Adrian suffered brain damage.
“He’s essentially retarded and he’s going to be seriously developmentally impaired for the rest of his life,” said attorney Shawn McMillan. “As to specifically where the injury occurred in her home, there’s only one person who will ever be able to answer that question and that’s Holly Downs.”
After Adrian’s parents decided to sue CSUN and Downs, a court deposition revealed Downs’ descriptions of a series of falls she says happened that September day in 2008.
“He crawled over to the toy rack and he tried to get himself up on it and it fell on him,” said Downs. “He was pushing on the gate that separates the kitchen from the playroom and he fell on top of the gate… He tried to pull himself up on the Lego table and he fell backwards.”
When asked if she thought Adrian might have gotten hurt in another fall from a portable crib, Downs replied “I don’t think he got hurt in the fall in the port-a-crib, yes.”
The portable crib is where Downs found Adrian limp around 3 p.m. that afternoon.
“He was non-responsive and I was like Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, and I got nothing out of him,” she said. “I asked my older son Ryan to call 911.”
When questioned in the deposition, Downs focused attention back at Jacqueline and Antonio.
“I think his parents or somebody in that house that his parents live with hurt that child,” Downs said.
Downs was investigated but never prosecuted. There were no adult witnesses at the daycare. Finally, she filed for bankruptcy which stopped the case from moving forward against her.
CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Sharon Tay reached out to get more of Downs’ side of the story.
“I didn’t do anything,” said Downs when questioned at her home. “The parents were at fault for what they did. They abused the child.”
When asked to recall more details about that day of the injuries, Downs was recalcitrant.
“It’s none of your business,” she said to Tay as she closed the door. “It’s between the courts and that’s that.”
As for liability insurance, according to California law, Downs was never required to carry it as long as parents signed a form acknowledging “the parent has been informed that the family day care home does not carry liability insurance.” Neither Jacqueline Arce nor Antonio Langarica ever signed this form.
“It was really surprising for me to find out that all the daycare has to do is have a license, that’s it,” said attorney McMillan. “(They) don’t have to have insurance.”
Despite Adrian’s life-long medical issues, he looks like a happy and healthy 4-year-old. As for his parents, they lost their case against CAL State University Northridge last year.
“They didn’t care about us,” said Antonio. “They didn’t care about my son. They didn’t care about what was going to happen to our family.”
For Adrian’s parents, closure is still a long way off.
“I want her to answer for what happened,” said Jacqueline. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get an answer, but I do think that she’s responsible for what happened.”