DELRAY BEACH (CBS4) – Kathryn Muhammad and Nelder Lester are two women forever linked by one tragedy.
In August 2010, Haile Brockington, 2, died when she was left behind in a sweltering daycare van in front of Katie’s Kids Daycare in Delray Beach.
Nelder Lester was Haile’s mother. Kathryn Muhammad was the owner of the daycare where Haile died.
Muhammad lost everything following the tragedy. She was forced to close Katie’s Kids and three other child care centers she had spent her life building.
“They said Katie a child died today, and I collapsed on the floor,” remembered Muhammad.
Muhammad has just written a book entitled T.O.I.L., an acronym for Triumph Over Innocence Lost.
It’s a heartrending story that chronicles Muhammad’s story of childhood sexual abuse, suicide attempts and the accident that caused Haile’s death.
Muhammad was away on vacation when the incident happened but carries guilt.
“I do have nightmares. I wish I could have saved Haile, because my purpose was no child was ever hurt under my watch,” said Muhammad.
Muhammad says she lost her whole purpose in life when she lost her livelihood.
“It wasn’t just the loss of Haile but the loss of myself as a child,” said Muhammad.
But Nelder Lester is angry over Muhammad’s book.
“I feel it should be called the book of lies. There’s no truth in the book,” she said.
Lester is upset about how she is portrayed in the book.
In one passage Muhammad claims, “Haile and her siblings spent the majority of their lives removed from their mother’s care.”
“They were not one time taken out of custody, not once,” said Lester. “I think she is trying to make herself look as if it was everyone else’s fault and not hers. To make herself look better in the eyes of everyone.”
Muhammad said much of the information in her book she obtained from her staff at Katie’s Kids.
“It’s not something I meant to hurt her. It was part of the story of what happened,” says Muhammad.
Lester said she has obtained the records from all of Muhammad’s daycare centers and claims that Muhammad had transportation violations before Haile was left on that van.
She is writing her own book about Haile who would be five years old now. She is still traumatized, she said, when she thinks about Haile strapped in her seat and hearing the voices of children in the daycare, expecting someone would come to rescue her.
“I wish I had called that day to check on her,” said Lester. “But I don’t blame myself at all.”
These days Lester finds strength and comfort in her other children. She says they have grown closer as a family but will always be scarred by the loss of Haile.
Muhammad said she doubts she will ever own another daycare center but she says she would like to work with children at some level.
“I feel like I’m on the road to reclaiming my life,” said Muhammad.