Daycare worker will not serve jail time for toddler's death

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A daycare employee convicted in the death of a toddler left inside a van will not go to jail.

Keishawn Whitfield, 23, was sentenced today to six months home confinement for the death of 13-month-old Andrew Johnson.

The family of baby Andrew gasped in the John Marshall Courthouse courtroom when the judge sentenced Whitfield to home confinement rather than jail time.

As the judge put it, this entire tragedy is a loss for both families.

"It was a mistake. I can't take that back. If I could I would." That's what Whitfield had to say in November after his convictions for child neglect and involuntary manslaughter.

Today Whitfield learned his fate: 6 months of home confinement. A sentence that brought Johnson's mother to tears. She was helped from the courthouse by family.

"I don't think that they had a lot of illusions about what the sentence could be but being in his house probably does sound difficult for them to take, I think," said Mary Langer, the assistant Commonwealth's Attorney.

Prosecutors say they were not startled by the sentence because this was such a difficult case.

In July, Whitfield picked up little Andrew Johnson at home to take him to the Yellow Brick Road Daycare. But Andrew never arrived inside, Whitfield accidentally left him in the van for eight hours in 84 degree weather.

"There's no right. there's no wrong but I'm glad he's not going to be in the city jail," said Whitfield's attorney, John Luxton. "Glad he's not going to be in the penitentiary."

His friends say Whitfield is devastated and that may be punishment enough.

"That has to be on your record for the rest of your life," said Tanisha Woodley. "That's going to contribute to someone not being able to get a job. So I really think that home confinement was enough."

Prosecutor's hope the community will learn from Whitfield's mistake and begin to pay more attention, especially to children.

"Those lapses of judgement have very very long term affects for people. there are things you just can't say your sorry and make go away and when a baby is killed it's forever," said Langer.

Whitfield will report to the sheriff's office next week to be fitted for his ankle bracelet. His mother, Valerot Whitelow, was ordered by the state to close her daycare. She goes on trial here next week for child neglect.

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