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Day care center where boy died is closed

Hillsborough County secured a court order Friday closing the Lotta Lovin Child Care Center indefinitely while authorities investigate the death of a 17-month-old boy left inside a sweltering van for seven hours.

A preliminary autopsy report indicated that the child, Tyrese Green, died from "environmental hyperthermia," or overheating.

"I just couldn't live over this long weekend without knowing that no other child would be in danger from this facility," said Hillsborough County Attorney Emeline Acton.

Acton secured the injunction from Hillsborough Circuit Judge Dick Greco Jr. after Lotta Lovin owner Shawana Stacy, 30, refused to sign a request from the county to surrender her child care license while local and state authorities investigate.

Stacy could not be reached for comment Friday. A handwritten sign at the day care center at 8325 N Packwood Ave. read "Sorry closed" and indicated that she had planned to reopen Tuesday, after the Veterans Day holiday.

Police say Tyrese was picked up from his home by Stacy in a day care center van at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and mistakenly left inside after the other children got out.

The toddler was not discovered until Stacy picked up another batch of children after school at 2:30 p.m. and one of them told her a baby was "sleeping" in a car seat in the back.

Temperatures reached 77 degrees in Tampa on Thursday. The van's windows were rolled up, and Tyrese was wearing a jacket.

The county's licensing program inspects child care centers three times annually. There are roughly 520 centers in Hillsborough and another 700 programs run out of homes, serving about 32,000 children, said Linda Stoller, the county's manager of child care licensing.

Of the child care centers, some 210 provide pickup programs from schools and 43, like Lotta Lovin, offer home pickup.

County records indicate that Lotta Lovin has repeatedly been cited for failing to provide adequate supervision, although generally conditions improved on follow-up visits. Just the same, the county noted those deficiencies in court Friday.

The injunction request also noted that Lotta Lovin had twice been cited for failing to keep an accurate count of children in the center, as required.

Earlier this year, state legislators passed a law requiring child care providers to twice count children unloaded from day care center vehicles.

The driver is supposed to make one count, and a second employee is supposed to make the other, and both are required to check off a log.

The county mailed Lotta Lovin a notice of the law and a sample log on June 11, records show.

Stacy told police Thursday that she had marked Tyrese's name off but must have forgotten to retrieve him.

"I can't imagine how it can happen," Stoller said. "It's a very sad thing, and it certainly was nothing intentional. But these are professionals who had taken on a responsibility."

Stacy may face criminal charges. Last month, a Daytona Beach day care supervisor was charged with child neglect in the death of a 2-year-old left in a hot van.

Lotta Lovin was licensed starting July 1, 1998, and was permitted to house as many as 75 children, but more typically the center had two dozen to three dozen.

Stoller said parents with children at the center who are looking for another program while Lotta Lovin is closed can call the Partners in Care program at 744-8941 to obtain names of other licensed providers.

One parent, 23-year-old Temeka Fisher, took the day off from work Friday because Lotta Lovin was closed, and she couldn't find anyone to watch her 2-year-old son, Jamar.

Fisher, who works in the credit services department at Capitol One, said that even if Lotta Lovin reopens, she won't bring Jamar back.

"I know mistakes happen. I just don't know how something like that could happen," said Fisher, who said Jamar will stay with family next week while she finds a new day care center.

Fisher also was upset that Lotta Lovin staffers didn't call parents Thursday to tell them about the tragedy. Like many parents, she found out about Tyrese's death when she drove up to the center and saw yellow police tape circling the building.

"I found out from a reporter," she said.

Tyrese's mother, Sedrika Green, was not at her Sulphur Springs home Friday. The front yard was scattered with toys.

A neighbor, D. Marshall Jines, walked over to offer the assistance of the Sulphur Springs Action League, a nonprofit group of neighborhood activists.

"This is very sad, and we'd like to do something here," Jines said.

_ Staff writers Amy Herdy and Tamara Lush contributed to this report.

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