MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A West Miami-Dade daycare operator will spend Christmas in jail, after pleading guilty in the drowning death of a child at her center.
Zobeida Gonzalez, 64, the mother of the business owner, is charged with aggravated manslaughter. She was arrested in February 2014 in connection to the death of 3-year old Jonathan Feliciano.
On Thursday, Gonzalez confessed to leaving the boy out of her sight for nearly half an hour.
A plea deal required Gonzalez to write an apology to Feliciano’s parents.
Defense Attorney Scott Egleston read Gonzalez’s letter of apology in court, saying “I failed to protect Jonathan, and because of me, Jonathan is no longer with us…If I could give my life for Jonathan’s, I would. I don’t want to live anymore, and I ask God to take this pain away. I was so negligent.”
As her attorney read her apology to the victim’s family, Gonzalez wept and so did her family.
Prosecutor Santiago Aroca said the boy’s family wanted Gonzalez to go to prison, but understood that the circumstances and law did not call for prison time.
Aroca called this situation a tragedy where there are no winners and no losers. He said Feliciano’s family chose not to attend the hearing, because “their lives have been destroyed.”
Miami-Dade Police said, in December 2013, Feliciano drowned in a pool at the rear of a Miami-Dade daycare center after he had been left alone for nearly half an hour.
Detectives said surveillance tape shows that the 3-year-old was playing on the stairs of the pool for six minutes before getting in the water. He was underwater 23 minutes before he was discovered.
Gonzalez’s Defense Attorney had, in the past, disputed what happened.
Aroca called out the Department of Children and Families who inspected the swimming pool three times before the boy drowned, and declared it to be okay, even though there was room for a child to squeeze through the gate and the fence.
Prosecutors believe the pool and the child’s death, should lead to a change in daycare regulations.
“I don’t believe that swimming pools have a place in child care facilities,” said Aroca.
Gonzalez is required to report to the Miami-Dade County jail on December 14th.
As part of the plea deal, Gonzalez must spend 32 days in jail, including this Christmas, and a holiday weekend next year as well. She will also serve eight years probation. Gonzalez will also never again work as a child care provider, and her family has surrendered its daycare license to the state
Gonzalez will also have to give speeches to daycare workers, recounting her fatal lapse.