WRAL Investigates

Government denies liability in Bragg day care death

Posted February 13

Santino “Sonny” Degenhard (Photo courtesy of the Degenhard family)

— The U.S. government denies any wrongdoing in the death two years ago of a baby who suffocated at a Fort Bragg day care.

Jason and Rachel Degenhard filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit last fall over the March 9, 2012, death of their 4-month-old son, Santino, at Pope Child Development Center.

The Degenhards have pushed for criminal charges against a day care worker who was supposed to be supervising their son and filed the suit after the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to pursue any charges.

A security camera in the day care captured the scene as the baby, also known as Sonny, struggled to breathe while on his stomach and was unable to roll over as a child care worker stood nearby, cleaning bottles and putting sheets on mattresses.

At least two staff members who came into the room mentioned that the baby didn't look right, but the caregiver didn't check on him, according to reports by Fort Bragg investigators and the state Division of Child Development and Early Education.

The caregiver eventually put Sonny in a crib, realized he wasn't breathing and started CPR. A school nurse and a medic, who was dropping off her child, also rush to the room to perform CPR.

Emergency workers arrived about five minutes later and took Sonny to Womack Army Medical Center. He was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where doctors determined he had suffered a brain injury consistent with oxygen deprivation. He was taken off life support six days later.

In its response to the lawsuit, the government contends that no federal employee was responsible for the baby's death and asks a judge to dismiss the case. The government also argues that, if the Degenhards win damages in the lawsuit, federal authorities should be able to recover any benefits already paid to the family.

6 Comments

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  • spunkyisbackagain Feb 14, 5:54 p.m.

    At least *three* people are responsible for this poor child's death: the caregiver, and the other two employees who noted that the baby didn't look right, but did nothing to ensure that the baby was okay. I do NOT understand why criminal charges (neglect) were not filed, and in the absence of that, I feel that the parents deserved some compensation, outside out of what has been given.

  • sunshine1040 Feb 13, 6:46 p.m.

    The government hire this day care worker she either was not properly trained or made a decision not to do her job so yes the government is responsible and no if the parents already accepted a settlement form the government then that amount should be deducted from any future settlements

  • splucker Feb 13, 5:45 p.m.

    So very sad :(

  • mafiamic Feb 13, 5:07 p.m.

    The Government denies they did wrong??????????????? OMG!! no,my trust and belief is crushed now.

  • kbird Feb 13, 2:16 p.m.

    It was their job to ensure the safety of this helpless child & they have the nerve to deny any wrong doing...wow! I find this appalling!! As for the worker herself...i really don't know how you sleep at night! First, you ignore warnings from others & allow this to happen & then you can live with just walking away & going on with your life. I may be scared to death if it were me but I would have to reach out to these parents or I could never forgive myself. Also, how is no federal employee responsible for this baby's death? He did not put himself on his tummy knowing he couldn't roll over! Was a infant suppose to take care of himself? I guess his parents could have just left him home alone! Oh wait, they would be charged with a CRIME!

  • dwr1964 Feb 13, 12:30 p.m.

    Of course. The government never does anything wrong. This was very sad and disturbing, when it happened. For the Government to now deny any wrongdoing, it just brings all of that sadness back into focus. I pray the parents will not be prevented in their quest for at least some comfort and closure.