Day-care operator indicted in boy’s drowning

Posted: March 05, 2013

Tianna Edwards, operator of the North Philadelphia day-care center where a 7-year-old boy drowned last summer, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of involuntary manslaughter, the District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Edwards, 31, was facing manslaughter and child-endangerment charges in the June death of Isear Jeffcoat. The grand jury indicted her on 20 additional counts of child endangerment and 21 counts of reckless endangerment, plus welfare fraud, medical assistance fraud, and tampering with public records.

Authorities have said that Edwards operated her day-care center, Tianna's Terrific Tots, using a fraudulently obtained license, and that she was gambling at SugarHouse Casino when Isear drowned in a dirty backyard pool at a home owned by Edwards' mother.

Edwards' attorney, Tariq Karim El-Shabazz, said Monday that he had expected Edwards to be indicted.

"We look forward to trying this case in the proper place," he said. "A courtroom before a judge and jury."

Edwards was arrested Jan. 18 after a state-mandated investigation found that she had taken Isear and 20 other children from her day-care center on Rising Sun Avenue to her mother's home in East Oak Lane. Edwards left the children with two workers, one of whom had a criminal background that prohibited him from being licensed to work with children, the review said.

The review also found that Edwards had opened the day-care program using another person's name to hide her criminal record. Edwards had convictions in three counties on charges including fraud, theft, forgery, and illegal gun possession, records show.

State officials knew Edwards was operating the center under a fraudulent license more than six months before the child's death, the review noted, but failed to act quickly to close it.

Even after one of Edwards' other day-care programs was closed by the state, she continued receiving state subsidies for two child-care centers, including the one Isear attended.

Last month, Edwards told The Inquirer in a telephone interview from jail that she was at the day-care center paying bills when Isear drowned, and had "good intentions."

"I didn't open a day-care center so I could make money," she said. "I did it because I love kids."

The case is one of the first to use a new grand jury law. Last year, the state Supreme Court announced that it was reviving the use of county indicting grand juries, which gives prosecutors the option of using an indictment to bring additional criminal charges.


Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com

Inquirer staff writer Mike Newall contributed to this article.

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