Parents Say 4-Month-Old Was Intentionally Smothered to Death at Day Care & They Want Justice

Isabella Rosetta Talton

The parents of a 4-month-old girl from Bear, Delaware, are filing a lawsuit against a day care center where their infant was killed in September. On May 4, parents Cadell Talton and Amanda Livingston filed paperwork that claimed that it was negligent of The Little People Child Development Center to allow 19-year-old Dejoynay Mariah Ferguson to watch their infant daughter because she was unqualified. This follows Ferguson's arrest related to charges she suffocated their baby girl to death.

  • Isabella Talton was smothered to death on September 5, 2019.

    Ferguson was alone in the center's infant room when she allegedly committed the act, according to Delaware Online. Surveillance video taken at the time reportedly showed Ferguson picking up Isabella by the front of her shirt and placing her on a changing table. She then allegedly placed her hands on the child's face for more than three minutes before the baby became "unresponsive and motionless."

  • Advertisement
  • The day care attendant put the infant back in her crib and waited 20 minutes before alerting the owner that something was wrong with the baby. 

    "At which time a call was made to 911," Delaware State Police Master Cpl. Michael Austin said in a statement to Delaware Online at the time. But sadly, Isabella didn't make it.

    At first, the day care worker told police a different story than what the cameras showed, but she later confessed that she picked up the child to quiet her because she was "fussy."

  • After Isabella's death, Ferguson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

    Now, around the time that their girl would have turned 1, parents Talton and Livingston have decided to take action against the day care facility that allowed this tragedy to happen, Delaware Online reported. Isabella's parents filed their lawsuit through lawyer Timothy Lengkeek, who spoke with the newspaper and told it that they are taking legal action so "this does not happen to another baby."

    "The civil suit against the day care itself is the only way to hold them responsible for what happened to the baby," Lengeek said. "The state's going to prosecute (The Little People's) employee, but the only way we can get accountability is to file a civil case against the actual entity itself, the corporation."

    The suit seeks unspecified damages based on several charges, including negligence and breech of contract.

  • According to the suit, staff at The Little People, specifically Ferguson, do not have "adequate credentials."

    The suit also claimed that The Little People did not "properly supervise, manage, oversee and ensure safety for the children." The parents claim that the facility did not "properly investigate" Ferguson's qualifications to care for young children -- although she did pass her background check. 

    Lengkeek told the newspaper that they're hoping to find out how Ferguson, barely out of her teens herself, was allowed to work for the day care. 

    "The question is going to be, number one, what do we learn in discovery, but number two is it reasonable to leave a 19-year-old alone, unsupervised with a room of infants?" he said.

    "What kind of training and experience did she have that qualified her to have that position? How was she supervised? What do those surveillance tapes show?" he continued.

  • Other surveillance tapes might also prove that Isabella was being mistreated even before her death.

    Although the suit does not go into detail, it does suggest that Isabella was "subject to physical abuse, neglect and mistreatment" going as far back as July 28 of last year. This would be only weeks after she enrolled at the day care program on June 12, when she was only 6 weeks old. 

    The suit charges that The Little People "had a history of negligent and/or reckless and/or wanton conduct" when "purporting to ensure safety," although it's not clear what this claim is made in reference to. State records show that 26 complaints were made against the day care center between 2008 and September 2019, but only two of these claims were substantiated by state officials, and it's not specified that this is the reckless conduct the suit referenced. 

  • As of May 2019, The Little People passed a state inspection with a five-star grade.

    The facility was also permitted to reopen three weeks after Isabella's death. At the time, the state claimed that "the imminent threat to the health and safety of children" had been removed since Ferguson's arrest and added that a death like Isabella's "was not a systemic issue."

    Lengkeek told WDEL that just because The Little People complied with state regulations, it doesn't mean there isn't much to question with its hiring process and how the facility is run. As he said:

    "The state regulations are the minimum that a day care provider must comply with in order to stay open, but there's more to it than that. There's going to be an industry standard or standard of care that would apply to day care providers -- and that's going to go beyond and include other things that the state regulations require. So even though the state may have said, 'Yes you meet all of our minimum requirements,' the question still is -- did they meet the industry standard in terms of having a 19-year-old in a baby room by herself. There's a lot of things that you can be held civilly liable for that may not necessarily be included in the state regulations."
  • Lengkeek is confident that now the suit has been filed, "we will hear from other people" who have been victims of mismanagement and neglect at the center.

    Ferguson, meanwhile, remains on a $1 million cash bond -- but Lengkeek is still hoping to find justice for his clients.

    "The question is -- shouldn't the day care center also be held responsible? And the only way to do that in our system is to file a civil case against them," he said.

    A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money for Isabella's parents "to help relieve Isabella’s family of any financial stress during this sorrowful time," wrote its creator, Neesh Brooksmom.

    She even wrote about the little girl who died too soon, saying that "Isabella was a Daddy’s girl, a Mother’s princess, and loved playing with her big brother. Please pray for Baby Isabella’s family."

child abuse child care