Lawsuit filed, investigation reopened into Houston infant's day care death

Baby Shane was 3 months when he died after receiving care at Bibs and Cribs

HOUSTON – A year after her son died, a Houston mother said she believes she now has a clearer picture of the circumstances surrounding his death.

Shawna Diaz said her nearly 3-month-old son, Shane, died after being left at a day care off Jones Road.

“I really couldn't get any answers, to tell you the truth,” Diaz said regarding the days and weeks following her son’s death.

In November 2016, Shane was just shy of being 3 months old and Diaz needed a little help with child care a few days a week as she got back to work. Diaz said she found Bibs and Cribs child care, a family run operation.

“(I) never had a bad experience with a family run day care in the past,” Diaz said. “I had no reason to say, 'My son shouldn't go here.'”

On Nov. 2, 2016, Diaz received a call from the day care staff. Diaz said she was told there was an emergency with Shane and he was being taken to a hospital.

“Which immediately didn’t sound right to me, because my baby was so happy and healthy that day,” Diaz said. “Really, nobody had any answers as to why this happened.”

By the time Diaz made to the hospital, Shane was on life support. Diaz said Shane had gone too long without oxygen and would not recover. The family then had to make the decision to remove Shane from life support.

“I was left having to go home that night with a very, very empty feeling,” Diaz said. “It's not a feeling you want to have, to leave your child at the hospital when they tell you they can't do any more.”

According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office and state child welfare investigative reports obtained by Channel 2 Investigates, day care workers said Shane was put down for a nap on his back, and a short time later, an employee noticed blood on his nose.

The reports further reads that the day care's director was then called in to the room and saw "blood and vomit on his nose," and couldn't find a "pulse or breath." The reports state the day care’s director, Nataki Griffin, performed CPR on Shane as paramedics were called to the business.

An autopsy later determined Shane died from sudden infant death syndrome.

“I could feel in my heart something was not right,” Diaz said. “I needed to find out why this happened, because it didn’t make any sense.”

Diaz then contacted Houston attorney Joe Alexander. He is suing Bibs and Cribs on behalf of the family.

File: Diaz Original Petition_121317Read the plaintiffs' original petition (PDF)

“I knew there was something that had not yet been said, so I was thankful the truth finally came out,” Alexander said.

Alexander is referring to answers given during recorded depositions with Griffin and her mother, Audris Haynes.

“There were a lot of inconsistencies,” Alexander said.

State and Sheriff's Office reports read that Haynes told investigators she was watching Shane and two other children when she first noticed a problem. Those reports read she then called for Griffin to come into the room and take a close look at Shane. During depositions reviewed by KPRC, Haynes gave a different answer to this sequence.

“Um, actually Miss Taki is who noticed the problem with him,” said Haynes during the deposition.

“OK. Not you?” Alexander asked.

“Not me,” Haynes said.

Haynes said she was called out of the room to tend to another child, then Griffin took her place and was watching the babies at the time a problem was noticed.

Alexander then asked Griffin about why statements made to investigators differed from those given during the depositions.

“You told them a different story?” Alexander asked in reference to statements made to investigators.

“Yes,” Griffin said.

“Why?" asked Alexander.

“I don’t know,” Griffin said.

“Why did you tell them a different story other than the truth?" Alexander asked.

“I’m telling the truth now,” Griffin said.

“I know," Alexander said. "Why did you not tell them the truth?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I panicked,” Griffin said.

Alexander also questioned Griffin about statements made in regard to Shane being placed on his back for a nap. Texas Administrative Code requires child care facilities to place infants not yet able to turn themselves over in a “face up” sleeping position, unless a health care professional has signed a “Sleep Exception Form” for a child to be placed in a different sleeping position. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends placing infants on their backs to sleep to help reduce the risk of SIDS. The “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched in 1994 to help reduce the number of SIDS deaths each year.

“So, was he on his stomach?” Alexander asked.

“Yes,” Griffin said.

“And had he been on his stomach the entire time you were monitoring him?” Alexander asked.

“Yes,” Griffin said.

During the deposition, Griffin said she saw Shane was on his stomach when she first entered the room, and was there “three to five minutes” before noticing a problem.

“Had I known that they put him on his stomach, (I) never (would have) went there again,” Diaz said.

Another point that came up during the depositions was the facility’s cameras. According to answers given during the deposition, the business is equipped with cameras, but the devices were only used at night. Diaz said she too had asked day care employees about the cameras soon after Shane’s death.

“I am asking them, 'Why were your cameras not on?' It didn’t make any sense,” Diaz said.

During the deposition, Griffin explained that cameras were installed because the business was having a problem with theft, but the cameras were only turned on after the day care was closed.

“So, it’s only used when the children are not there now?” Alexander asked.

“It’s always been used when the children are not there,” Griffin said.

Child care facilities are not required to have video surveillance devices. Alexander and Diaz now want state legislators to pass a law requiring cameras to be in use when children are present.

“It forces accountability to the people who are watching the most vulnerable,” Alexander said. “I am not hoping that the law will change. I’m going to work to make sure that the law is changed.”

After conducting the depositions, Alexander contacted investigators with the Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to notify them of the answers he received.

Officials with the Sheriff’s Office and TDFPS told KPRC they have reopened their investigations into the circumstances surrounding Shane’s death.

“All I know is, I felt in my heart it shouldn’t have happened,” Diaz said.

When KPRC tried to speak with Griffin and Haynes at the day care, an unidentified employee said no one was there to give a comment. An attorney listed for Griffin and Haynes as being present during the depositions has also not returned calls for comment.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”