Whitfield out of jail on bond

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A daycare employee accused in the death of a 13 month old boy is out of jail Tuesday night.

Keishawn Whitfield posted $20,000 bond Tuesday afternoon. Whitfield is the driver for a north Richmond daycare. He's accused of leaving the child in a van for hours.

The day care center is voluntarily closed Tuesday and plans to re-open Wednesday. Whether it stays open is up to the Department of Social Services and that investigation could take weeks.

The police are focusing their attention on the center's day care driver. It was Keishawn Whitfield's job to drive the children of his mother's Yellow Brick Road Daycare and learning facility.

"He's worked at that business for 2 to 3 years as a driver. Doing what he did yesterday, every day. Three or four trips, van loads of kids back and forth to the day care center," said Whitfield's attorney John Luxton.

But on Monday one of those trips tragedy struck. Police have released few details, but they do tell us that Whitfield drove to his Garland Avenue home and 13 month old Andrew Johnson was left unattended in the van for hours. Johnson died. Whitfield is accused of felony child neglect.

"Keishawn he's like my little boy. He has excellent character. This is an unfortunate situation. This is outside of his character," said Charlene Sutton, Whitfield family friend.

Family friends say it was a terrible accident. Richmond's top prosecutor says this is the type of accident Richmond can't allow.

"You know you send your child away to go to daycare presumably in the custody of someone who's going to take care of your child and because of that person's actions your child is dead. I don't know how you ever recover from something like that," Richmond's Commonwealth attorney Michael Herring said.

The medical examiner is determining whether Andrew Johnson died from heat exposure. Police and prosecutors are deciding whether to upgrade the charge against Whitfield to murder.

"The police are working diligently to determine whether other employees or operators or owners of the facility also face some degree of criminal liability," said Herring.

Whitfield's family is looking to god for answers.

"He has to do the healing cause there's nothing anybody else can do," said Sutton

The daycare's been open since 2004 and is inspected several times a year. The last state inspection was in February and there were four minor violations. Late Tuesday afternoon, the family released this statement: "Truly our hearts are filled with mixed emotions and great sorrow.  Andrew was our beloved angel and miracle baby. Even though he's sleeping, he will always be loved, remembered, and missed. Only time can heal our hearts and we appreciate your condolences and prayers."

Whitfield will be back in court in August.

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