HOMESTEAD (CBS4) – About 15 family members and friends of a toddler who died after being left inside a sweltering daycare van protested Monday afternoon at the home of a bus driver charged with leaving the boy on the bus and then trying to cover-up his mistake, demanding more serious charges.
Lelier Perez Hernandez, 23, was charged on Friday with aggravated manslaughter of a child and tampering with physical evidence. Hernandez was the driver of the Jomiba Learning Center daycare van on July 12th, the day 22-month old Dominicue Andrews died.
The boy’s mother, grandmother, uncle, and other relatives were among those protesting, some carrying signs, claiming Hernandez should have been charged with first degree murder for the death.
They also were angry a co-worker has not bee changed, and the day care facility’s license remains active, although the center is closed.
The Department of Children and Families said the license is under review.
Hernandez was released after posting bond on the charges, but he was not seen at the protest Monday and it’s not known if he was at his house while protesters were there.
According to the arrest affidavit, Hernandez left Dominicue in the van all day long, while he remained strapped in his car seat.
Hours later, when Dominicue’s teacher realized the toddler was missing, Hernandez checked the van and saw the boy still strapped into his car seat, unresponsive and not moving.
The affidavit states Hernandez picked up Dominicue and placed his body on a concrete slab on the east side of the school but didn’t tell anyone he had found the child. Then, he simply joined the search that had been started by daycare staff. Dominicue’s body was found a short time later but it was too late.
Hernandez later admitted to police that he forgot the child was in the van and did not properly check the van once the kids were off.
An autopsy determined Dominicue died from asphyxiation and the manner of his death of accidental. Temperatures that day were in the 90s which means it was much hotter inside the van.
Attorneys for Andrews’ family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the daycare, saying that the facility was negligent and failed to protect the toddler. They also want police to charge the second person who was in the van with Hernandez the day the toddler died.