Judge orders day-care operator to remain in jail

Posted: March 06, 2013

A Philadelphia judge today refused to lift a detainer that is keeping jailed the operator of a Philadelphia day-care center where a 7-year-old boy drowned last summer.

Common Pleas Court Judge Joan A. Brown denied the request by the lawyer for 31-year-old Tianna Edwards, saying Monday's indictment charging Edwards with involuntary manslaughter involved an alleged crime that occurred while Edwards was still on probation for a 2012 conviction on insurance fraud.

Defense attorney Tariq Karim El Shabazz argued that during her probation on the 2012 fraud case, Edwards has fully complied with the rules set by her probation officers.

El Shabazz said Edwards cooperated with city homicide detectives investigating the death of Isear Jeffcoat before Monday's county grand jury indictment. She surrended to police on Jan. 18 and cooperated with the investigation.

Without lifting the detainer from the 2012 case, El Shabazz added, Edwards cannot even try to raise money to meet her $850,000 bail in the manslaughter case.

About 20 people attended the hearing, including some parents with children in Edwards' day-care center, Tianna's Terrific Tots, who El Shabazz said support Edwards' release on bail.

Assistant District Attorney James Fitzpatrick argued that Edwards was a danger to the community and said he had evidence that she or someone associated with her had tried to intimidate a witness.

No details were provided on the alleged intimidation because Brown had Fitzpatrick brief her and El Shabazz in chambers.

Edwards was indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, plus 21 counts of recklessly endangering another person, 21 counts of endangering the welfare of children, welfare fraud, theft by deception, medical assistance fraud and tampering with public records.

The manslaughter charge involves the June 30 death of Isear, who drowned while swimming with other children in a nine-foot-deep pool at the home of Edwards' mother in the 6600 block of North Eighth Street.

Staff members had taken the 21 children there from Edwards' center while Edwards allegedly spent the day gambling at SugarHouse Casino.

Jeffcoat's mother has filed a lawsuit against Edwards, saying she ran a fraudulently licensed day-care center.

Edwards told the Inquirer in a telephone interview from jail last month that she loved the children in her center: "I didn't open a day-care center so I could make money. I had good intentions. I did it because I love kids."

Edwards was arrested Jan. 18 in Isear's death but her preliminary hearing was postponed when prosecutors requested the use of an indicting grand jury. The new grand jury process enables prosecutors to protect witnesses from intimidation by having them testify in the secrecy of a grand jury.

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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