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2017-05-17 / Front Page

Day care owner faces felony charges in child’s death

By Ben Orcutt
CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A July 17 Chesterfield Circuit Court grand jury will determine if an unlicensed Midlothian day care operator will be indicted on felony charges after a 3-month-old boy died while in her care.  

Following a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge Jayne Ann Pemberton determined there was enough evidence to certify two felony charges against Carrie C. Persichini, 53, of the 4200 block of Bridgewood Road.

 “More likely than not I think the commonwealth has carried the day,” Pemberton said with regard to probable cause being established.

Persichini faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter and felony child neglect. She remains free on a $10,000 unsecured bond pending her next court date.

Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennifer Bowers, who performed the autopsy on 3-month-old Peter Hitt, testified that the infant was on his side in a portable crib and that he died from hypoxia.

“Essentially oxygen does not get to the brain,” Bowers explained.

On cross examination by Henrico defense attorney Mackenzie L. Clements, Bowers acknowledged that the child could also have died from a neurological disorder.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia listed the child’s cause of death as “sudden unexpected infant death associated with unsafe sleep environment.” 

The manner of death was “undetermined.”

Chesterfield pediatrician Dr. Mark M. Polanshek testified there was no evidence that the child was unhealthy and added that he was born to a surrogate mother.

Officer David Clayton testified that when he arrived at Persichini’s home on Aug. 23, she was crying and “frantic.”

When he arrived at the residence, an ambulance had transported the child to a hospital, Clayton said.

Authorities responded to Persichini’s residence on Aug. 23 after receiving a report that a 3-month-old male in her care was unresponsive and in cardiac arrest.

Emergency personnel transported the boy to St. Francis Medical Center and he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Clayton said Persichini told him that she put Peter and twin sister Ava down in the portable crib about 12:15 p.m. and then found him unresponsive about an hour later.

Detective Josh Hylton testified that when he interviewed Persichini on Aug. 23 she made a statement that she was capable of handling all of the children in her care that day. Even if there had been fewer children Peter Hitt would have likely died anyway, Persichini told the detective, stating that, ‘”When it’s our time, it’s our time.’”

Hylton said authorities determined that 16 children, two of whom were Persichini’s grandchildren, were in her care on Aug. 23, with nine of the children under age 5 and seven of the children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Hylton added that live reptiles were in cages in the back bedroom where Peter Hitt and his sister Ava were sleeping.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Frank J. LaRuffa’s final witness was Sharon Curlee, a licensing inspector with the Virginia Department of Social Services who interviewed Persichini on Aug. 25.

Curlee told the court that the maximum number of children that can be kept in a family daycare home is 12 and that a license is required.  

Curlee testified that infants up to 16 months are not allowed to be placed in portable cribs to sleep, that they are not allowed to sleep with other children and that blankets are not allowed.

When authorities responded to Persichini’s home, Peter Hitt was partially covered with a blanket, LaRuffa said.

Curlee told the court that she had no evidence to verify whether Persichini had checked on Peter Hitt and his sister every 15 minutes as she had stated to authorities.

State law requires home day care operators to obtain a state license if caring for more than five children who are unrelated to the operator. Curlee added that there was no documentation she could find that Persichini ever obtained a license to operate a home day care.

Neither Peter Hitt’s family nor Persichini commented following Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.

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