Lawyer: Day-care provider is being made a scapegoat after baby's death

  • Article by: BRAD SCHRADE
  • Star Tribune
  • August 9, 2012 - 10:49 AM

A 3-month-old boy who died last week at a Dakota County in-home day care was placed by his provider in an unsafe sleep environment that violates state law, but her attorney said that doesn't mean she was negligent or caused his death.

Provider Rebecca Graupmann placed the infant to sleep on his back in an adult bed so she could monitor him more closely as she cleaned up after serving lunch to other children in her care, said attorney Ryan Pacyga. State child care laws require infants in licensed day cares to be placed to sleep in cribs with nothing but a tight-fitted mattress sheet, to reduce the risk of death.

At some point during the baby's nap on July 31, Graupmann discovered he was on his side and had stopped breathing, Pacyga said. Graupmann dialed 911 and from the minute police arrived at her Farmington home, he said, investigators have treated her as if she did something wrong. Pacyga said the investigation has not been fair to his client.

"They made her out as a negligent day-care provider," Pacyga said. "Their interviews have been hostile from the beginning."

Police would not comment on the specifics of case amid a continuing investigation and with autopsy results pending. Officials have not yet released the name of the infant.

"The Farmington Police Department is doing a complete and thorough death investigation in this matter," said Sgt. Lee Hollatz, head of investigations. "It is a very in-depth, professional investigation."

More than 50 children have died at licensed facilities in Minnesota since 2007, nearly double the previous five years. Like the death in Farmington, the eighth statewide this year, most have involved infants sleeping at in-home facilities. Many involved infants and unsafe sleep practices or other licensing violations.

Licensed since 1997, Graupmann was approved for up to 12 children at her in-home business. Her license is listed under her former married name, Rebecca Lynn Wilson. It was suspended by the state Department of Human Services immediately after the death.

This week she faced additional licensing problems over questions about why her new husband, Jeffrey Hillard Graupmann, 42, was not listed as a resident on her licensing renewal application last year.

State law requires such disclosure and criminal background checks for anyone age 13 or older who lives or works at an in-home day care.

County licensing officials didn't pick up on her husband's presence in the home, even though Graupmann reported a name change on her application last year. After the Star Tribune asked this week about the potential missing information, county licensing officials cited her for withholding information and for her husband not having a background check.

State records show that a person with the same full name and birth date as her husband has a criminal history with various burglary-related arrests going back more than a decade. The most recent conviction was in 2004 for possession of burglary tools. Child-care providers can't operate if family members have disqualifying crimes unless they get an exception from state officials.

Pacyga said his client is not talking publicly, but the violation involving her husband "does not have anything to do with whether she is criminally liable" for the infant's death.

He said there's been no suggestion from police that anyone intentionally harmed the child. He said police told him Wednesday that they have forwarded the case file to the Dakota County attorney for review. Pacyga said his client will appeal the licensing suspension, but that she has bigger concerns, including the well-being of the infant's family. Police have told her to have no contact with the infant's parents, who live nearby, Pacyga said.

Brad Schrade • 612-673-4777

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