Death of toddler left in day care van ruled homicide

HOUSTON – The death of a 3-year-old left in a day care van for nearly five hours in mid-July has been ruled a homicide.

According to the medical examiner, Raymond Pryer, also known as RJ, died from hyperthermia after sitting in the 113-degree vehicle for several hours.

“I think everyone who missed him for four and a half hours should be held accountable and as soon as I heard the news that they ruled it a homicide I was like, just a sigh of relief that maybe we’re going to get justice for what happened to our son,” said Dikeisha Whitlock-Pryer, RJ’s mother.

The case will now go before a grand jury, which will decide what’s next.

“What the grand jury is going to do is determine which of those boxes those cases fit in (and) if so, what degree of homicide, murder manslaughter, negligent homicide or none of the above,” said Brian Wice, legal analyst for KPRC Channel 2 News.

“I’m just praying the grand jury have a heart, I’m praying the Lord touches their heart, touches their mind  touches their soul and they make the right decision,” said Whitlock-Pryer.

On Sept. 6, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission revoked the Discovering Me Academy’s permit, meaning the business was required to close.

Pryer's parents filed a lawsuit against the facility for more than $1 million after day care workers forgot the toddler on the van following a field trip to a park.

“I would never have believed anything like this would happen to my child,” said Pryer’s father, Raymond, in a press conference in August.

“He was my miracle child,” said Pryer's mother. “I'm 41. (His father is) 45. It's my first and only child.”

The 3-year-old also had two older stepsisters, Amber, 22, and Taylor, 19. 

The family’s lawyer, Larry Wilson with the Lanier Law Firm, argued Pryer’s death could have been prevented had the day care followed proper safety protocol.

“This is so hard. I don’t want anyone to feel like we are feeling right now. I’m destroyed inside,” said Pryer’s father. “I think they need to count, recount, double check and triple check. Maybe some sensors on your buses or some cameras.”

“We just can’t stop fighting, we can’t’ stop fighting for justice for this child because he didn’t deserve to die that horrible death, he didn’t’ deserve to be neglected the way he was neglected, he didn’t’ deserve to be forgotten about,” said Whitlock-Pryer.

The family has started the RJ Foundation 4 Kids to provide awareness and help prevent future tragedies from happening.

“Every day I have to cuddle this foundation and see what I can do next to help it grow to get the word out that we have to change the laws, change the procedures (and) the process at which they’re handling the kids in these facilities, and the day care providers period,” said Whitlock-Pryer.

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