Local News

No charges for Raleigh day care where child choked on pine cone

Posted August 26, 2019 11:23 a.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2019 11:50 p.m. EDT

— The death of a 10-month-old boy who choked on a pinecone at a Raleigh day care center is a tragic accident, and no criminal charges will be filed against employees there, according to the Wake County District Attorney's Office.

The state Department of Health and Human Services suspended the license of A Hug a Day Care on Adcox Place in south Raleigh after the death of Areon Ellington in May.

In a letter to day care operator Antoinette Rochelle, DHHS wrote, "You must inform all your parents of enrolled children that the facility will close at the end of business today."

Helena Harris, Areon's grandmother, said she dropped him off at the center May 29, only to get a call within hours that he was choking on something.

"He was my heart, my heart. He was our get up and go," she said. "He was, through our struggles, what was bonding us together."

During an interview Monday at their home, the boy's mother has several photos of her baby.

"It still bothers me," Ashawna Ellington, 15, said. "I don't like looking at other people's children because I look at them (and will think) 'he didn't get to do that' or I didn't get to do that with him."

State records show A Hug a Day Care had a list of past violations, including a report in January that the home-based day care had more than its allowable limit of children under the age of 2, and one that found a space heater was in reach of children.

North Carolina's star rating system labels A Hug A Day as a three-star facility out of a possible five.

Ratings are based on program standards and the education level of staff.

Harris said the center should consider whether it wants to continue operating, although it appears the Raleigh in-home daycare is now permanently closed, according to a Google search.

"If you can no longer handle being a day care provider, you need to get out of the business," she said. "She's been in the business for a long time, and like I'm saying, this is negligence. He shouldn't have been outside as hot as it was."

The boy's relatives said they are shocked to know the daycare’s operator won’t face any criminal charges.

The owner "shouldn't just simply go get another job and push this under the rug," Harris said. "We can't do that."

The boy's mother said she still has many questions for the daycare operator.

"Why weren't you watching him? Why did you have him on the ground? He couldn't walk (and) he could barely crawl. He could barely sit up on his own<" Ellington said.

She adds that she wants to spend her time working to keep his memory alive.

"I have a lot of things I want to do," she said.