Stephanie Thompson, a daycare employee at the Easter Seals Center Sylvan in southwest Atlanta, finds herself facing murder charges.
These charges follow the death of a six-month-old baby, Ocean Carter, who passed away while under her care in February 2021.
Investigative warrants state that Thompson placed the sleeping infant on a ‘boppy pillow.’ This decision had fatal consequences. It is alleged that Ocean was laying on the pillow for about 20-60 minutes without any form of supervision.
The baby was later found unresponsive. Despite being rushed to the hospital, he passed away.
Initially, Ocean’s death was blamed on natural causes. However, the story shifted when the mother of the child reached out to investigators months later.
The police collaborated with Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s Bright from the Start program to name the staff members on duty at the time of Ocean’s death. It was then revealed that Thompson, along with another worker, were present in the building. However, the second worker was not in the room where Ocean was resting.
Thompson’s account of the events was revealed during this investigation. She claimes that Ocean fell asleep in her arms and was then placed on the pillow while she was on her laptop. She also attended to two other kids who woke up from their naps. The woman assumed Ocean was just shifting around when she noticed him moving.
It was only after she finished feeding the other children that she noticed Ocean was no longer breathing. This led to a frantic 911 call and the use of CPR to revive the baby.
The ‘boppy pillows’ are not approved for infant sleep according to training records. Guidelines mandate that infants should be moved to a crib or car seat for napping. Lena Barber, the daycare center’s director, confirmed that these pillows were intended only for use when children were awake.
As a result, Thompson and the daycare center were found to be in violation of state regulations for both lack of supervision and creating an unsafe sleeping environment.
According to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission, these pillows can cause suffocation. Some other variants of the ‘boppy pillow’ were recalled seven months after Ocean’s death following reports of ten infant deaths across the nation.
Thompson is currently charged with second-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to children. During her preliminary court hearing, she was denied bail.