SW Fla. daycare owner charged in boy's death


Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 at 11:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 19, 2013 at 11:45 a.m.

LEHIGH ACRES — A southwest Florida daycare owner is charged with aggravated manslaughter and child neglect after a 2-year-old boy drowned while in her care.

Melissa Smith, 42, remained in jail Friday following her arrest following the June 24 drowning of Christian Byrd in a kiddie pool at the Smith Family Daycare in Lehigh Acres.

According to Lee County deputies, Smith put Christian in a pool with a 3-year-old and two 4-year-olds and then went back inside her home to check on three other children.

The Fort Myers News-Press (http://newspr.es/12ZD1nN ) reports Smith also went to the bathroom before returning to check on the children in the kiddie pool. When she went outside, a child told her "Christian's dead."

Deputies said Smith took the toddler to a neighbor's house to get help. But she left three children in the pool and three more inside the house.

Attorney Robert Harris told WINK-TV in Fort Myers that his client is devastated and feels terrible for the Byrd family.

"She is CPR certified," Harris said. He added that she panicked and asked a neighbor, who is a Marine, to perform CPR while she called 911.

"She's not grieving because she's in jail," Harris said. "She's grieving because there's a death of a child, it was on her watch, and no one feels worse than she does."

An autopsy confirmed the child drowned.

The News-Press reports the daycare renewed its registration with the state on June 12. It has been in operation since 2009. The Department of Children and Families regulation allowed for Smith to care for 10 children at any given time.

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