PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — The operator of an in-home day care facility was sentenced Wednesday to six years in state prison for the 2012 death of a baby boy left in her care, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.
Milena Nikodijevic, 52, pleaded no contest on May 7 to one count of child endangerment causing death.
She was also barred from working as a child care provider.
Her employee, Wendy Roxana Oropeza, 22, pleaded no contest to one count of involuntary manslaughter on Jan. 13.
According to prosecutors, Adam Dash, an 11-month-old baby, was left in Nikodijevic’s care at her Burbank home day care, Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars, in Feb. 2012.
Dash died when he was unable to breathe after being improperly strapped into a car seat and placed in a closet to nap.
“Oropeza improperly secured the boy in another child’s car seat inside the day care. The infant fell asleep in the car seat and was asphyxiated by the chest strap,” according to the DA’s office.
Dash’s mother, Julie Garcia, spoke at Nikodijevic’s sentencing.
“Adam was the most wonderful gift God has every blessed me with,” she said. “He was beautiful inside and out, a wonderful spirit who brought me the greatest joy I’ve ever known…I miss all of our special moments, making a silly face, watching him laugh. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about Adam.”
Garcia added, “I trusted a most precious life to someone whose greed was more important than the life of Adam.”
Investigators said Nikodijevic had been cited in 2009 for having too many children in her day care home. In 2010, she was cited again when the state found she had twice as many infants as she was allowed to care for under her license.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, most records of inspections and complaints involving day care providers in California are stored in obscure government offices out of reach of most parents.
While most states make the information readily available to parents online, California does not.
“Had we known of any of the prior violations or things like that, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near that place ever and that needs to be known to everybody,” the victim’s father, Dan Dash, said. “There was no way for us to know any of that stuff. We’re not attorneys, we’re not lawyers…we just needed to put our son in a day care and we did the best we could.”